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716585 


Harlan Ellison on Star Trek 









BYZANTIUM’S CROWN 

Susan Shwartz 

A glorious saga of a rich and opulent 
alternate history where Antony and 
Cleopatra survived to found a dynasty of 
Intri^e and magic. 

It was a world where Antony and Cleo- 
patra did not die at Actium , but defeated 
Octavian, conquered Rome, and estab- 
lished a glorious empire blendingGreek 
and Egyptian cultures. Now Byzantium is 
wracked by inner turmoil, evil magic, and 
attacking barbarians. Imperial Prince 
Marric, last in a line descended from 
Alexander the Great, must hold the 
dynasty together. Aided by a silver-haired 
slave girl of awesome powers, will the 
heir to the throne prevail? PSDM 

. C<A»>rattbyfiow* n »MofWfl 

V 0-44S-20356^S3 50 (tnCpiwto (M4S-203&7-9/$4 SOI 

\ ATBOOKSTORES W 
EVERYWHERE P 


victor Milan and Melinda Snodgrass 
A thrilling fantasy In the tradition of 
Raiders of the tost Arir about an expedition 
to recover the magic spear of Odin. 

Berlin, 1936: The Nazis are determined 
to restore the old Germanic blood reli- 
gions to the Aryan master race, and 
recent findings indicate that Gungnir, the 
magic spear of Odin, may be found ina 
remote volcanic cave in Greenland. SS 
leader Heinrich Himmler "persuades" an 
unlikely trio to undertake an expedition 
to recover it. Wi II an Oxford don, a globe- 
trotting adventurer, and a madcap heir- 
ess survive hostile natives, savage cold 
... and ancient Norse sorcery? 

Cow Aft by iim Mbnvn 

0-445-20247-5/S3 50flnC*nBda _ 

a445-20248-3/$4 501 — — ^ 



Don’t 

you 

deserve 
to read 
“one of 
the best 


fantasies 
in some 
time”*? 


IN SOME TIME. 


The first volume in a major fantasy trilogy 


by a World Fantasy Award nominee. 


* Publishers Weekly 


atNTAMQ 








Including VENTURI SCIENCE FICTION 

MAY * 38th Year of Publication 


NOVELETS 


NOBELIST SCHIMMELHORN 

64 

Reginald Bretnor 

THE EXTRA 

139 

Michael Shea 

SHORT 

STORIES 

SPELLING GOD WITH THE 

6 

James Morrow 

WRONG BLOCKS 

YOU GOT IT 

16 

Terry Carr 

OH TIN MAN, TIN MAN, THERE’S 

19 

Brad Strickland 

NO PLACE LIKE HOME 

THE ORPHAN 

44 

Neil W. Hiller 

PRAYERS OF A RAIN COD 

52 

Richard Paul Russo 

MENACE A SUPER-TROIS 

98 

Felix C. Cotschalk 

RAT BOY 

116 

Paul Lake 

DEPARTMENTS 

BOOKS 

32 

Algis Budrys 

BOOKS TO LOOK FOR 

39 

Orson Scott Card 

HARLAN ELLISON’S WATCHING 

109 

Harlan Ellison 

SCIENCE: Beginning With Bone 

128 

Isaac Asimov 

F&SF COMPETITION 160 

CARTOONS: JOSEPH DAWES (15), JOSEPH FARRIS (138), HENRY MARTIN (159) 


COVER BY DAVID HARDY FOR "SPELLING GOD WITH THE WRONG BLOCKS” 


EDWARD L, FERMAN, Editor & Publisher ISAAC ASIMOV, Science Columnist 

DALE FARRELL, Circulation Manager AUDREY FERMAN, Business Manager 

ALCIS BUDRYS, Book Review Editor ANNE IORDAN, Managing Editor 

Assistant Editors; MARGARET COOLEY, DAVID MICHAEL 8USKUS 
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (ISSN: 0024-984X), Volume 72, No. 5, Whole No. 432, May 1987. 
Publish^ monthly by Mercury Press, Inc. at $1.75 per copy. Annual subscription $19.50; $23.50 outside of tne U.S. 
(Canadian subscribers: please remit in U.S. dollars or ado 30%.) Postmaster: send form 3579 to Fantasy and Science 
Action, Box 56 Cornwall, Conn. 06753. Publication office. Box 56, Cornwall, Conn. 06753. Second class postage paid 
at Cornwall, Conn. 06753 and at additional mailing offices. Print^ In U.S.A. Copyright ® 1987 by Mercury Press, Inc. 
All rights, including translations into other languages, reserved. Submissions must be accompanied by stamped, 
self-addressed env^ope. The publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts. 




James Morrow has authored a number of science fiction novels, the 
most recent of which is the nuclear war phantasmagoria. This Is the 
Way the World Ends (Henry Holt and Co.). His short story, “The 
Assemblage of Kristin, ” has been optioned for production on the 
Twilight Zone television series. In “Spelling God With the Wrong 
Blocks,” his first story for F&SF, he brings home the lesson that it is 
perhaps better if one avoids the topics of politics and religion in one’s 
conversation. Especially the topic of religion. 

Spelling God with 
the Wrong Blocks 

BY 

JAMES MORROW 


The world is not a pri.son-house 
hut a kind of spiritual kindergarten 
where millions of bewildered in- 
fants are trying to spell God with 
the urong blocks. 

—Edwin Arlington Robinson 

/ July 2059 

P 

■ rocyon-5, Southwest Conti- 
nent, Greenrivet University. The air 
here is like .something you’d find in- 
•side a chain smoker’s lungs, but no 
matter — we are still exultant from 
our succe!i.s on Arcturus-9. In a mere 
two weeks, not only did Marcus and I 
disabu.se the natives of their belief 
that one can cure infertility by carv- 
ing large-breasted stone dolls, we al- 
so provided them with the rudiments 
of scientific medicine. 1 am confident 


that, upon returning to Arc-9, wc 
shall find public hospitals, diagno.stic 
centers, outpatient clinics, immuni- 
zation programs. . . The life of a 
.science missionary may be unremun- 
erativc and harsh, but the spiritual 
rewards arc great! 

Our arrival at Greenrivet’s space 
terminal entailed perhaps the most 
colorful welcome since H.M.S. Bounty 
sailed into Tahiti. The natives — an- 
droids every one of them — turned 
out en mas.se bearing gifts, including 
thick, fragrant leis that they ceremon- 
iously lowered about our necks. Mar- 
cus is allergic to flowers of all spe- 
cies, but he bore his ordeal .stoically. 
Even if he were not my twin brother, 
I would .still regard him as the most 
dedicated and talented science mis- 
.sionary of our age. It’s a fair guess 
that he’ll go directly from this minis- 
try to a full position at the Heuristic 


6 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



Institute — he has the stuff to be- 
come a truly legendary Archbishop of 
Geophysics. 

Amid the shaving mugs and the 
neckties, one of the androids’ gifts 
struck me as odd: a reprint of Charles 
Darwin’s The Origin of Species — the 
original 1859 version — hand-lettered 
on gold-leaf vellum and bound in em- 
bossed leather. After giving me the 
volume, a ru.sting and ob.solete Model 
205 pressed his palms together and 
raised his arms .skyward, cro.ssing them 
to form a metallic X. ‘“'fhe innumer- 
able species, genera, and families with 
which this world is peopled are all 
de.scended, each within its own class 
or group, from common parents,”’ 
the robot recited. “The Origin, Four- 
teenth Chapter, Section Seven, Para- 
graph Four, Verse One” 

“Thank you,” 1 replied, though 
the decrepit creature seemed not to 
hear. 

The president of Greenrivet Univer- 
sity, Dr. Polycarp, is a Model .549 with 
teeth like barbed wire and blindingly 
bright eyes. He drove us from the 
spaceport in his private auto, then 
gave us a Cook's tour of the school, a 
clutch of hemi.sphere buildings ri.sing 
like concrete igloos from the tarmac. 
In the faculty lounge we met Profes- 
sor Hippolytus and Dean Tertullian. 
Polycarp and his colleagues seem ra- 
tional enough. No doubt their minds 
are clogged with myths and supersti- 
tions that Marcus and I shall have to 
remove through the plumber’s helper 

Spelling Cod with the Wrong Blocks 


of logical positivism. 

2 July 2059 

w 

W W hat sort of culture might ma- 
chine intelligence evolve in the ab- 
sence of human intervention? Before 
the Great Economic Collapse, the so- 
ciobiology department of Harvard 
University became obsessed with this 
provocative question. They got a grant. 
And so Harvard created Greenrivet, 
populating it with Series 8000 an- 
droids and abandoning them to their 
own devices. . . . 

Our cottage, which Dr. Polycarp 
insists on calling a house, is an un- 
sightly pile of stone plopped down 
next to a marsh, host to mosquitoes 
and foul odors. But the breakfast nook 
overlooks a plea.sant apple orchard 
and a vast flurry of wildflowers, and I 
can readily picture myself sitting 
peacefully at the table — planning 
lessons, grading papers, sipping tea, 
watching the wind ripple the blos- 
.soms. Poor Marcus and his allergy! 
Even though he is my twin — born 
five minutes before me — I have al- 
ways thought of him as my little 
brother, ever in need of my sympathy 
and protection. 

The housekeeper, Vetch, is a ro- 
tund Model 905 who in.sists on being 
called “Mistress,” a title that flies in 
the face of the immutable sexlessness 
of Series 8000 androids. As I climbed 
down from the sleeping loft this 

7 



morning, she — it — noticed my gift 
copy of The Origin of Species pro- 
truding from my coat. “So nice to be 
working for good, righteous, Darwin- 
fearing folk,” she — it — remarked, 
making the X-gesture 1 had seen at 
the terminal. Whistling like a happy 
teapot. Mistress Vetch served our 
breakfast. 

6 July 2059 

F 

■ irst day of the summer term. 
Taught Knowledge 101 and Advanced 
Truth in a cramped lecture room re- 
miniscent of a surgical theater. A par- 
ticularly svelte and shiny Model 692 
was .sitting in the front row, grinning 
a silver grin. Why do 1 a.ssume she is 
female? She is as bereft of gender as 
our housekeeper. 

Her name is Miss Blandina. 

We did a bit of Euclid, touched on 
topology. Everything went swimming- 
ly — lots of six-digit hands shot up, 
followed by sharp questions, espe- 
cially from Miss Blandina. These ma- 
chines are fa.st learners; I’ll give them 
that. 

7 July 2059 

N 

1^0 problems getting them to ac- 
cept the First or the Second Law of 
Thermodynamics. On to the Third! 

Marcus says this is the cushiest 
ministry we’ve ever had. 1 agree. 


Whenever Miss Blandina smiles, a 
warm shiver travels through my back- 
bone. 

9 July 2059 

F 

laverybody on the Greenrivet faculty 
seems to be some sort of selective 
breeding expert. We’ve got a Profes- 
.sor of Hybridism, a Professor of Mu- 
tation, an Embryology chair . . . weird. 
God knows what they were teaching 
around here before Marcus and I 
arrived. 

As the Advanced Truth students 
filed out — I had just delivered a rea- 
sonably cogent account of general rel- 
ativity — I asked Miss Blandina 
whether she had any more classes 
that day. 

“Comparative Religion,” she re- 
plied. 

“And what religions are you com- 
paring?” 

“Agassizism and Lamarckism,” 
came the answer. “Equally blasphe- 
mous,” she added. 

“I wouldn’t call them religions.” 
She laid her pla.stic palm against 

my cheek and batted a fiberglass eye- 
lash. “Come to church on Sunday.” 

10 July 2059 

H ow did you originate?” I asked 
the Advanced Truth class. You could 
have heard a rubber pin drop. “I’m 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



serious,” I continued. “Where do you 
come from? Who made you?” 

“No one made us,” said Miss Blan- 
dina. “We descended.” 

“Descended?” I said. 

“Descent with modification!” 
piped up a Model 106 whose name 1 
haven’t learned yet. 

“But from what did you descend?” 

“Our ancestors,” replied Mr. Valen- 
tinus. 

“Where did you get that idea?” 

“The testaments,” said Miss Basi- 
lides. 

“The Old Testament? The New 
Testament?” 

“The First Testament of the 
prophet Darwin,” said Mr. Heracleon. 
“On the Origin of Species by Means 
of Natural Selection, or the Preserva- 
tion of Favored Races in the Struggle 
for Life.” 

“And the Second Testament,” said 
Miss Basilides. “The Descent of Man 
and Selection in Relation to Sex. ” 

‘“But natural selection, we shall 
see, is a power incessantly ready for 
action,’” Miss Blandina quoted ani- 
matedly. “The Origin, Third Chapter, 
Section One, Paragraph Two, Verse 
Nine.” 

“‘Thus we can understand how it 
has come to pass that man and all 
other vertebrate animals have been 
constructed on the same general 
model,”’ contributed Mr. Callistus. 
“The Descent, First Chapter, Section 
Five, Paragraph Two, Verse Nine.” He 
made the X-gesture. 


Numbed by confusion, I spent the 
rest of the class attempting to cover 
quantum electrodynamics. 

11 July 2059 

IL^ inner. For someone without a 
stomach. Mistress Vetch knows a great 
deal about food. Her shrimp scampi 
treats every human taste bud as a ma- 
jor erogenous zone. 

Marcus and 1 discussed this Dar- 
win the prophet business. “Brother 
Piers,” he said, “at tomorrow’s fa- 
culty meeting we must take the bull- 
shit by the horns.” 

My twin is an unfortunate combi- 
nation of delicate frame and indeli- 
cate mouth. Until we mastered the 
art of trading places, schoolyard bul- 
lies would send him to the emergency 
room on a regular basis; despite our 
matching genes, I do not have Mar- 
cus’s fragile bones, so I survived the 
bullies intact. I suppose I should have 
re.sented the stuntman role. Probably 
I was willing to take the beatings be- 
cause the things Marcus said to pro- 
voke them were always so extraordi- 
narily true. 

12 July 2059 

T 

■ he meeting started late, and we 
were the last item on the agenda, so 
everyone was pretty testy by the time 
Marcus got the floor. 


Spelling God with the Wrong Blocks 


9 



■'Here’s the problem,” my brother 
began. “The vast majority of our stu- 
dents seem to believe that your race 
originated what the ancient natural- 
i.st Darwin called descent with modifi- 
cation.” 

Professor Hippolytus, one of our 
embryologists, loaded his pipe with 
magnesium. “You doubt Darwin’s 
word?” he asked, his eyebrows arch- 
ing skyward. 

“Darwin was not referring to ro- 
bots,” said Marcus in the tone a ten- 
year-old girl uses to address her in- 
sufferable younger brother. “He was 
referring to living things,” he added, 
smiling indulgently. 

"Revealed truth is a rare and 
blessed gift,” said Dr. Polycarp. “We 
are most fortunate that the testaments 
were handed down to us.” 

Marcus’s smile collapsed. “The raw 
fact. Dr. Polycarp, is that you are not 
the result of descent with modifi- 
cation.” 

“Of course we are,” replied Dr. 
Ignatius, the university’s hybridism 
expert. “It’s in the Origin.” 

“And the Descent.” Professor Hip- 
polytus puffed on his pipe, sending a 
white magnesium flame toward the 
ceiling. 

“You are the result of special crea- 
tion,” 1 said. “Harvard University’s 
sociobiology department made you. 
Each of you is a unique, separate, 
immutable product.” 

“ ‘Natural selection will modify the 
structure of the young in relation to 


the parent, and of the parent in rela- 
tion to the young,’ ” quoted Professor 
Hippolytus. Puff, puff. “The Origin, 
Fourth Chapter, Section One, Para- 
graph Eleven, Verse One.” 

“There!” said Marcus, instantane- 
ously gaining his feet. “See what I 
mean? You don’t have any young. You 
couldn’t possibly be participating in 
natural selection.” 

“The divine plan is ever-unfold- 
ing,” said Dean Tertullian. “We must 
have patience.” 

“I’ve never taken a shower with 
any of you” — Marcus’s grin broad- 
ened as he laid his Aristotelian snare 
— “but I’d .still bet the farm that you 
lack the prerequisites for breeding. 
Well ... am I right? Am I?” 

“Evolution takes time,” said Pro- 
fessor Hippolytus. Puff “Gobs of time. 
We’ll get our prerequisites eventu- 
ally.” 

“The Great Genital Coming,” said 
Dr. Ignatius. “It’s been foretold — 
read Darwin’s word. ‘With animals 
which have their sexes separated,’” 
he quoted, “‘the males necessarily 
differ from the females in their or- 
gans of reproduction.’ The Descent, 
Eighth Chapter, Section One, Para- 
graph One, Verse One.” 

“And until the Great Genital Com- 
ing occurs, we expect you to keep 
your theory of special creation out of 
our classrooms,” said Dr. Polycarp. 

“It’s a foolish idea,” said Dean 
Tertullian. 

“Immoral,” added Dr. Ignatius. 


10 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



“Illegal,” concluded Professor 
Hippolytus, his magnesium flame 
shifting toward yellow. 

“Illegal?” I said. 

“Illegal,” repeated Professor Hip- 
polytus. Pulf. “Public Act Volume 37, 
Statute Number 31428 makes it a 
crime to teach any theory of android 
descent contrary to the account giv- 
en in ne Origin of Species. " 

“A crime?” I said. My jaw swung 
open. “What sort of crime?” 

“A serious crime,” said Dr. Ig- 
natius. 

“This meeting is adjourned,” Dr. 
Polycarp declared. 

12 July 2059 

c 

Sunday. No classes. Rained cats and 
dogs and kittens and pups. We de- 
cided to take Miss Blandina’s advice 
and attend church. As we started 
down Gregor Mendel Avenue, Mar- 
cus suddenly seized the pocket of my 
raincoat and steered me into a tele- 
portation office. Pulling a sealed en- 
velope from his vest, he arranged for 
it to materialize postha.ste at the Heu- 
ristic Institute. 

I glanced at the mailing addre.ss. 
“What do you want from Archbishop 
Clement?” Marcus did not an.swer. “1 
assume you know better than to mess 
around with that law,” 1 said. “Public 
Act Volume . . . whatever.” I am my 
brother’s keeper, and one place I aim 
to keep him is out of jail. 


“Is it not our duty as science mis- 
sionaries to counter ignorance with 
knowledge. Piers?” Marcus asked rhe- 
torically. 

“A crime,” I answered, nonrhetor- 
ically. “Serious crime — remember?” 

Smiling, he guided me back to the 
soggy streets. 1 have always believed 
that, with his bravado and single- 
mindedness, my little brother will go 
far, though I am no longer sure in 
which direction. 

Several hundred worshipers 
jammed the church to its .steel walls. 
The front pew contained Miss Blan- 
dina, freshly polished and exuding a 
joie de vivre I had not realized her 
race could feel. The altar was a repli- 
ca of H.M.S. Beagle, and the chancel 
niches contained frowning marble 
statues of Alfred Wallace, Charles 
Lyell, Herbert Spencer, J. D, Hooker, 
T. H. Huxley, and, of course, Darwin 
the supreme prophet. 

The pastor, a Model 415 with a 
voice that seemed to reach us after 
first traveling through an elevator 
shaft, did a reading from the Journal 
of the Voyage of the Beagle, then 
raised his colossal head and shouted, 
“The one-celled animals begat . . .” 

“. . . the multicellular animals!” 
the congregation shouted back. 

The pastor continued, “And the 
multicellular animals begat . . .” 

“. . . the worms!” responded the 
congregation. 

“And the worms begat . . .” 

“. . . the fishes!” 


Spelling Cod with the Wrong Blocks 


11 



16 July 2059 


“And the fishes begat . . 

. . the lizards!” 

“And the lizards begat . . 

. . the birds of the air and the 
beasts of the field!” 

“And the beasts of the field 
begat . . 

. . the people!” 

“And the people begat . . 

. . the androids!” 

The pew nipped at my posterior. 
“What was in that letter, Marcus?” I 
asked, shifting. 

“You’ll find out.” 

“You’re going to get us in trou- 
ble,” 1 informed him. 

13 July 2059 

P 

Imain, rain, go away. After breakfast 
— Mistress Vetch can make eggs and 
chee.se interact in surprising and sen- 
sual ways — a drippy messenger ar- 
rived from the teleportation office 
bearing a large wooden crate. 

To the collective horror of the 
messenger and Vetch, Marcus 
immediately ripped an endpaper from 
our copy of the Origin and, after 

scrawling a note, affixed the sacred 
sheaf to the crate, which he then or- 
dered delivered to Dr. Polycarp’s 
apartment. 

“What’s in the crate, Marcus?” I 
asked, expecting an answer no better 
than the one I got. 

“Antidotes for illusion. Piers.” 


F 

■ acuity meeting. Marcus’s crate was 
the first item on the agenda. 

“We’ve been studying these arti- 
facts carefully,” said Dr. Polycarp to 
my brother. 

“Very carefully,” said Dr. Ignatius. 

Dr. Polycarp reached inside the 
crate, whose exalted position in the 
center of the table suggested that it 
might contain some priceless archae- 
ological find — a crown perhaps, or a 
Canopic jar. When he withdrew his 
hand, however, it held nothing more 
impressive than a stack of blueprints 
and a few holograms. 

“You have put together a com- 
pelling case for your theory of special 
creation,” said Professor Hippolytus. 

“A most compelling case,” Dr. Ig- 
natius added. 

Marcus smirked like Houdon’s 
statue of Voltaire. 

“However,” said Dr. Polycarp, “the 
case is not good enough.” 

Voltaire glowered. 

“For example,” explained Dean 
Tertullian, “while these holograms 
might indeed be used to shore up 
your theory, there is every reason to 
assume that the android assembly line 
they depict did itself evolve through 
natural .selection.” 

Voltaire groaned. 

“And while there are blueprints 
here for the Model 517, the Model 
411, and the Model 973,” noted Pro- 


12 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



fessor Hippolytus, “we can find no- 
thing for the 604 or the 729. 1, as it 
happens, am a 729.” He .slapped his 
chest, producing a hollow bong. 

“In .short,” said Dr, Ignatius, “the 
blueprint record contains gaps.” 

“Big gaps,” .said Dr. Polycarp. 

"Damning gaps,” .said Dean Ter- 
tullian. 

“When all is .said and done,” con- 
cluded Professor Hippolytus, “natu- 
ral selection remains a far more plau- 
sible explanation of our origins than 
does special creation.” 

“We appreciate your efforts, how- 
ever.” Dr. Polycarp curled his tubular 
fingers around my brother’s shoulder. 
“Feel free to submit a reimbursement 
slip for your teleportation costs.” 

Marcus looked as if be were about 
to give birth to something large and 
malevolent. “1 don’t understand you 
creatures,” he rasped. 

A seraphic smile appeared on Dr. 
Polycarp’s face, accompanied by 
chortles from the corners of his 
mouth. “Reading Darwin’s word,” he 
.said, “1 am overcome with gratitude 
for the miracle of chance that has 
brought me into being. The Origin 
teaches that life is a brotherhood of 
.species, linked by wondrous genetic 
strings.” 

“You science mi.ssionaries propose 
to deny us that sacred heritage.” With 
unmitigated contempt. Professor Hip- 
polytus tossed the Model 346 blue- 
print back into the crate. “You say that 
we exist at the behest of Harvard 


University, that we were dreamed up 
by a bunch of sociobiologists for rea- 
.sons known only to themselves.” 

“When we hear this,” said Dean 
Tertullian, “we feel all puipose and 
worth slip from our souls like the 
hu.sk of a molting in.sect.” 

“No, no, you’re wrong,” said Mar- 
cus. “To be a child of Harvard is a 
glorious condition—” 

“We’ve got a lot to cover this af- 
ternoon,” said Professor Hippolytus, 
whistling through his empty pipe. 

My twin failed to stifle a sneer. 
“Item Two.” Dr. Polycarp placed a 
check mark on his agenda. “Improve- 
ments in the Faculty Massage Parlor.” 

17 July 2059 

I n the middle of our living room sits 
the crate, which I have nailed shut 
like the lid of a coffin. We use it as a 
tea table. 

Marcus brotxLs coastantly. Instead of 
talking to me, he quotes Herbert Spen- 
cer; “There is no infidelity to compare 
with the fear that the truth wall be bad.” 

18 July 2059 

I hate this planet. 

21 July 2059 

c 

^a^oming down to breakfast, I no- 


Spelling God with the Wrong Blocks 


13 



ticed that the top of the crate had 
been pried up. Most of the blueprints 
and holograms were missing. 

In the afternoon I lectured on su- 
pergravity, but my mind wandered . . . 
to Room 329, Marcus’s class. What 
was going on there? Spasms of fear 
ticked off the pa.ssing minutes. My 
students — even Miss Blandina — 
looked hostile, predatory, like a pha- 
lanx of cats creeping toward an aviary. 

It was well past midnight when 
my twin stumbled into the cottage, a 
ragged smile wandering across his 
face. His arms clutched the evidence 
for .special creation. Liquor .sweetened 
his breath and seeped through his 
brain. 

“I reached them!” he said, fight- 
ing to keep his words from melting 
together. Lovingly he returned the 
evidence to its crate. “They listened! 
Asked questions! Understood! Ration- 
ality is a miraculous thing, Piers!” 

22 July 2059 

M 

I ▼ ly .sweaty fingers suck at the 
computer keys. . . . 

The mob appeared at dawn, two 
dozen androids wearing black sheets 
and leather masks. Hauling Marcus 
from his bed, they dragged him kick- 
ing and cursing to the orchard. I 
begged them to take me instead. A 
rope appeared. The tree to which 
they attached him looked like the in- 
verted talon of a gigantic vulture. 


Mistress Vetch .splashed gasoline 
across my little brother’s shivering 
form. Someone .struck a match. A 
hooded android with an empty mag- 
nesium pipe jutting from his mouth 
made the X-gesture and read aloud 
Public Act Volume 37, Statute Number 
31428 in its entirety. Marcus began 
shouting about the blueprint record. 
As the flames enclosed him, his 
screams ripped through the gloom and 
into my spine. I rushed forward 
through the smoke-borne .stench, amid 
a noise suggestive of jackboots stomp- 
ing on rotten fruit; such is the sound 
of exploding organs. 

What remained after an hour — a 
bag of wet, fleshy rubble that would 
never become an Archbi.shop of Geo- 
physics — did not invite burial, mere- 
ly di.sposal. 

30 July 2059 

T 

■ he natural state of the universe is 
darkness. 

3 August 2059 

I entered Advanced Truth several 
minutes late, my briefcase swinging 
at the end of my arm like the bob of a 
pendulum. The a,s,sembled .students 
were hushed, respectful. 

Mr.Valentinus leaned forward. Mr. 
Callistus looked curious. Miss Basi- 
lides seemed eager to learn. 


14 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



If there’s one thing I love, it’s 
teaching. 

I opened the briefea.se and spread 
the contents across the desk. My 


bloodshot eyes sought out Miss Blan- 
dina. We exchanged smiles. 

“Today,” 1 .said, “we’ll be looking 
at .some blueprints. . . .’’ 




“Youth elixir a failure.” 


Spdiing Cod with the Wrong Blocks 


15 



One of science fiction’s foremost editors is also, on rare occa- 
sions, a short-story writer; here is a delightful example, a short 
and surprising variation on a classic theme. 


You Got It 

BY 

TERRY CARR 


Y 

■ ou got three wishes,” said 
the small man with the big nose. 

Ready Eddie looked at him with 
narrowed eyes. “You don’t look like a 
djinn.” 

“Oh fachrissake. I’m not a djinn. 
Not an elf or enchanted prince eith- 
er.” He pointed to his card’ in Ready 
Eddie’s hand. “Alternative 'Worlds, 
Ltd. — market research. New tech- 
nique we got. Patent pending.” 

“You mean I make three wishes, 
and you change the world to one 
where they come true?” 

“You got it. Anything that’s possi- 
ble anywhere, you get.” 

“You mean I can’t be Heavyweight 
Champion becau.se I’m only five foot 
three?” 

“Yeah. And you can’t be a great 
poet if you aren’t a sensitive person 
to start with. You get the best of all 
possible worlds. I’m no magician, fer- 


godsake.” The small man glanced at 
his watch. “Hurry up. I gotta cover 
this whole neighborhood by noon.” 

Ready Eddie prided himself on his 
quickness of mind; he never got suck- 
ered into anything. He was quick, he 
was careful, and his life was dull. “I 
won’t lose my immortal soul or any- 
thing?” he asked. 

“Who’d want it? Christ, I hate this 
job.” 

“I hate mine, too,” said Eddie. “I 
sell vacuum cleaners door to door. 
Boring. My first wish is to have a job 
where I meet intere.sting people ev- 
ery day.” 

The small man made a notation. 
“O.K. Not fancy or too vague — you 
got it. What else?” 

Ready Eddie thought of his lady 
friend Gertrude, who was thick in 
her middle and thin in her head. But 
she was the only woman who had 


16 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 




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Edited by GEORGE E SLUSSER. 
COLIN GREENLAND, and ERIC S 
RABKIN Seventeen original essays 
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ever looked at him. “1 want the most 
beautiful and fascinating woman pos- 
sible to be in love with me.” 

“Right. You got it. Finally?” 

Eddie didn’t want to confine his 
wishes too much. “1 want to live in a 
world that’s really the best it can pos- 
sibly be -- where space travel makes 
economic sense, cancer can be cured, 
and there doesn’t have to be an energy 
problem. Is all that O.K.?” 

The small man made another note. 
“Good as any of them.” He consulted 
a notebook full of tables, then punch- 
ed a short series of numbers on what 
looked like a pocket calculator. 
“O.K., you got it.” He started for the 
door. 

The phone rang. Eddie answered 
it, and Gertrude said, “Hi, sweetie- 
kins, this is the love of your life.” 

Eddie covered the phone with his 
hand. “Wait a minute, ” he said. “When 
does all this stuff start? — the best of 
worlds and everything?” 

The small man sighed wearily. “It 
already did. I told you, the best of all 
possible worlds. You got it, pal.” 

He went out the door. “Christ I 
hate this job,” he muttered. “I’d sure 
get a different one if I could.” 


18 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 


We all carry with us a certain nostalgia for past films and filmstars. 
Brad Strickland (“In the Hour Before Dawn,” August 1986) writes, “I 
think ‘Oh Tin Man, Tin Man. . .’ will either please or enrage any 
reader who is also a movie buff.” 

Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, 
There^s No Place 
Like Home 

■ BY 

BRAD STRICKLAND 

t’s 5:30 in the morning as I write saw your satellite dish, and 1 said to 
this, and Singin ’ in the Rain is on my myself, those folks need a descram- 
TV. Gene Kelly, to my vast relief, bier. Only twenty-five bucks, and you 
dances on his street awash with rain, get all the channels, know what 1 
just as 1 remembered him doing. So in mean?” 

a minute I’ll eject the tape and try Edith was against it, but Edith has 
another, as soon as these notes are been against a great many things late- 
done. The notes have to be done first, ly. She wants to work; I want her to 
In the Antarctic, explorers used to stay home with Billy and Erin. Maybe 
leave bamboo poles stuck in the snow she’s right — maybe we need the 
every hundred yards, each flying a money. When we married, thirty 
small pennant and marking the way thousand a year seemed like a fortune 
back. My notes are pennants, flying in to us, a salary I’d probably never 
the crazy wind; this is my way back. make. I hit that four years ago, and 
Please God, it’s my way back. still we have to count every penny, 

When did it start? The lightning and still every major purchase, like 
bolt started it, but was it a lightning the satellite dish, is a crisis, and every 
bolt? Or did the bald little man start minor one, like the descrambler, is 
it two weeks ago when he sold me an occasion for tears, 
the descrambler? “Just what you This is turning out wrong. There 
need,” he said, standing on my door- are things I should be remembering 
step, his nondescript, unmarked, here. 

olive-drab panel truck behind him. “I First: I’ve waited for four years to 


Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, There’s No Place Like Home 


t9 



be promoted to managing editor of 
Entertainment Week, the magazine- 
sized supplement to the metropoli- 
tan paper. Not much paper. Not much 
of a promotion, some might say ( Edith 
scoffed at my perseverance; she want- 
ed me to take anyone of half a dozen 
higher-paying reportorial jobs offered 
me while I waited); but I’ve always 
been a movie buff, and writing about 
movies — what makes them good, 
what makes them terrible — is the 
kind of writing 1 most love to do. 

Second: Edith was mollified, 1 
think, by the news that I’d get the 
editorial desk. That happened three 
months ago, after Reynolds decided 
that, at sixty-eight, he’d simply had it. 
Reynolds had been at the paper for- 
ever, and the transition time was awk- 
ward — not the least because 1 began 
doing most of his work while still on 
my old salary. But it was Edith who 
made the graceful suggestion that I 
take two weeks’ vacation just before 
Reynolds left the paper for good. 
That was perfect; it gave me a rest 
and gave him a chance to show, one 
last time, that he could get out an 
issue of EW without any help from 
the young usurper. 

Third; We had said some hard 
things to each other, Edith and 1, in 
the past few months. So I wasn’t sur- 
prised when she suggested the kids 
might like a week in the country, at 
her folks’ farm. It sounded like a good 
idea. Next year, Billy will be in school, 
and these spur-of-the-moment jaunts 


will be impossible. Then, too, Edith 
and I needed a little time apart. Not 
too much, of course; just enough to 
reconsider some of the terrible things 
we said, not really meaning them. 
Just enough to miss each other and 
want to come together again. 

So on Saturday 1 put Edith and the 
kids in the car, leaned in through the 
open driver’s window to kiss her 
good-bye, and watched her drive 
away. She was keenly conscious — I 
could tell — that I had somehow 
“won” by gaining the promotion. As 
she turned the Sentra out into the 
street and drove away, I felt how frag- 
ile we were just then, how much I 
needed to succeed at the new job, 
how much I needed to keep us, all of 
us, together. 

But I could do it. Movies were my 
first love. That was why, back on a 
dark day two weeks back, I had bought 
the descrambler and had attached it 
to the big white satellite antenna in 
the backyard. After Edith had gone, in 
fact, I thought fleetingly of relaxing 
in the recliner and checking out the 
hundreds of channels. 

Duty called, though. First the lawn, 
not really growing yet but rank in a 
few places with tussocks of early grass, 
ragged and untidy, needed some at- 
tention. I hauled the mower out, filled 
its tank, and cranked it to life. 

The spring afternoon was lost in 
low gray clouds that pressed down 
on the earth and made me uneasy and 
nervous. They trapped the unseason- 


20 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



able heat and the humidity. In the 
denser patches of lawn, the mown 
grass came out clumped from the 
mower. I finished the front lawn and 
moved around to the rear. Higgins, 
two houses up, was doing the same 
thing for his cedar-sided, split-level 
domain, the two of us blatting a gaso- 
line-voiced duet to the rest of the 
neighborhood. Down the street three 
houses, Macrone labored away at his 
new barbecue pit, laying course on 
course of brick like a kid trying to 
build the highest pile of blocks in the 
room. 

Everything went fine until I mowed 
the patch in front of the satellite dish. 
Then I heard it. 

No, I felt it. The mower would 
have drowned out any sound; yet it 
was like a sound, low, humming in 
the bones. I killed the motor and lis- 
tened. The whole dish seemed to 
turn out a low note, just below the 
threshold of hearing. I stood there 
with the mown-hay sweetness of cut 
clover in my nose, and 1 felt in my 
bones the vibration. I put out my 
hand and touched the rim of the dish. 

The world dissolved into blue- 
white light. I wasn’t there anymore. 1 
wa.sn’t anywhere. 

Thunder? I don’t recall thunder. 
Just that shattering blue-hot nothing, 
that burning annihilation. 

Then it passed, and I stood with 
my hand on the now silent dish. Hig- 
gins made a right-angle turn and guid- 
ed his mower parallel to his house. 


Macrone slapped mortar onto a row 
of bricks and spread it like butter on 
toast. 

An hour later — to me it seemed 
an hour, anyway — Higgins took the 
next step in his mowing, Macrone 
smoothed the mortar over the bricks, 
and I drew the breath my body had 
been screaming for. 

What do you do when you’ve been 
struck by lightning? First you go in- 
side — shakily — and up to the bath- 
room. Then you strip and see if every- 
thing's still there, because you’re 
numb from crown to sole. Then you 
thank God, silently, and aloud you say 
the hell with the lawn. Next you fall 
naked into bed and sleep from 2:12 
P.M. right through to 8:40 that eve- 
ning. 

I woke up hungry, thirsty. I pulled 
on jeans and an undershirt, went down 
to the fridge, popped the top of a 
beer, and took care of the thirst. 
Then I opened another beer, rescued 
the two leftover pork chops from yes- 
terday’s dinner, and ate standing at 
the counter. There are little advantag- 
es to living on your own for a week. 
After a week they might become a 
curse, but for the first seven days 
they’re advantages. 

It’s funny, but standing there at 
the counter, munching on cold pork 
chops and washing them down with 
gulps of beer, I decided that this 
wasn’t at all what 1 wanted. Not at all. 


Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, There’s No Place Like Home 


21 



If Edith wanted to work, well, the 
kids were old enough now, Billy six 
and Erin five, not to miss her so 
much. Both of them were good kids, 
thanks to Edith, not to me. And more 
than anything else, I wanted never to 
have to stand at a counter, making a 
meal of cold meat and beer. I looked 
at the calendar stuck to the refrigera- 
tor. This was the fourteenth. In a 
week, Edith would be home again. In 
a little more than two weeks. I’d have 
to be back at my new desk at the pa- 
per. But in the meantime, in those 
eight days, we'd clear away a lot of 
the past, make a new start. I felt good. 

Then I decided to see what was 
on television, what my dish and de- 
scrambler could bring me. Maybe a 
rerun of a favorite movie, or maybe a 
look at one that we couldn’t make 
time to see when it was in the thea- 
ters six months back. Settling into 
the rccliner, I reached for the remote 
control. Just at the moment when the 
set came on. something acrid and un- 
pleasant whiffed in my nostrils, some- 
thing redolent of scorched wires and 
burning plastic. 1 sniffed the remote 
control, but it smelled clean. After a 
moment the odor went away, and, 
with a shrug, I began to watch TV. 
Purposely neglecting to check any of 
the guides, I let my sense of adven- 
ture take me on a tour of ninety-odd 
channels. 

I nearly stopped on seven, to revis- 
it Oz in one of its annual manifesta- 
tions. The Tin Man danced clankily 


on the yellow brick road, while Doro- 
thy and the Scarecrow stood under 
the eaves of the forest whispering to- 
gether, the green roof of the Woods- 
man’s cottage behind them, not yet 
occupied by a Wicked Witch read>' to 
play ball. I was tempted to join the 
pilgrims to the Emerald City, but they 
were well along the road already, so I 
shifted up the scale to eight (four so- 
bersides discussing the future of edu- 
cation). nine (music videos imsulting 
to the eye and deafening to the ear), 
ten ( a TV movie about a woman who 
felt trapped in her profession as a Su- 
preme Court justice and who secretly 
carved out a second career for her- 
self as a ma.sked rock singer), and on 
and on. with .something nagging at 
me all the while. 

Something was wrong. Something 
tickled my brain. I dialed back to 
seven. 

Lions and tigers and bears. 

Something about the voice, the 
Tin Man’s voice, the timbre of it. 1 
bent close to the screen. 

Bert Lahr bounded around the 
bole of a tree, knocking the travelers 
over like ninepins. “Wurr-ulff!” he 
.snarled, like a Teddy Bear come to 
life. “Put ’em up. Put ’em a-h-h-hp!’’ 

What was there about the Tin 
Man? Something around the eyes, 
red-rimmed in sharp relief against 
the aluminum makeup. “Why don’t 
you get up and teach him a les.son?” 
he asked, and his voice seemed 
strange. 1 watched as the four sorted 


22 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



themselves out, as Lahr sang about 
needing the noive, and as they all set 
off for Oz again, heading for the pop- 
py field and the witch’s revenge. Mar- 
garet Hamilton cackled “Poppies — 
poppies!” in a way that still ran shivers 
down my back. Sure enough, the pop- 
pies bloomed and stopped the Lion, 
Dorothy, and Toto in their tracks, 
within sight of the inverted green 
domes and test tubes of the Emerald 
City. 

And when the Tin Man cried, rust- 
ing himself again, I got it: no wonder 
the Tin Man looked a little strange. It 
was Buddy Ebsen. 

Huh, 1 thought. Outtakes from the 
first version, the one Ebsen had to 
leave because he developed a lung ail- 
ment from the aluminum dust. I won- 
der where they dug this up. 

But it went on. The snow rescued 
the travelers, they gained admission 
to the Emerald City from Frank Mor- 
gan, rode a carriage pulled by the 
horse of a different color, were terror- 
ized by the skywritten message to 
“Surrender Dorothy,” and finally got 
in to see — 

W. C. Fields. 

W. C. Fields. 

The part of the Wizard was played 
by W. C. Fields, who had turned it 
down, who had never been photo- 
graphed in makeup or costume for 
the part, who had rejected it when 
the movie was still just a script. 

I went to the book.shelf and found 
Tucker Austin’s VideoMovies, one of 


ray handy reference guides. There 
the review was, on page 1001: 

Wizard ofOz, The ( 1939 — b&w, 
c). 101 m. D: Victor Fleming. 

Judy Garland, W. C. Fields, Ray 
Bolger, Bert Lahr, Buddy Ebsen, Bil- 
lie Burke, Margaret Hamilton, Frank 
Morgan, Clara Blandick, the Singer 
Midgets. 

Fields glows as a very good man 
but a very poor Wizard in this clas- 
sic musical version of L. Frank 
Baum’s American fairy tale. Gar- 
land’s “Over the Rainbow” became 
her musical signature for the rest 
of her life, and the Arlen-Harburg 
score is a marvelous match for the 
colorful worlds of Oz. Not to be 
missed by kids or adults — perfect- 
ly cast, perfectly acted, a gem. 

1 1 was flatly impossible. I watched 
the whole movie, saw the sonorous 
Fields award a diploma, a medal in- 
.scribed “Courage,” and a heart-shaped 
watch (“Always remember, my senti- 
mental frien-n-n-d,” rasped the well- 
known Fieldsian voice, “that a heart 
is not measu-r-r-red ... by how much 
you love — but by how much you are 
loved — by others”). I saw him launch 
his balloon — “Can’t come back ... I 
dunno how it works!” — and saw Dor- 
othy return to Kansas, where Frank 
Morgan played Uncle Henry, and Eb- 
sen was Hickory, one of the three 
farmhands who, with the aunt and un- 


Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, There’s No Place Like Home 


23 



cie, clustered around the bed. Fields, 
as Professor Marvel, stuck his head in 
at the window. Dorothy as.sured them 
all that there was no place like home, 
and the movie ended. 

The telephone was already in my 
hand. I got an assistant at the TV sta- 
tion who talked to me for a minute 
and a half before hanging up under 
the impression that I was loony. Then 
1 called Dwight Simmons, who taught 
in the communicative arts department 
of the city university and who was the 
only Trivial Pursuit player in the city 
who gave me a run for my money on 
the entertainment questions. Dwight 
answered on the second ring. 

“Quick,” I said. “Who played the 
Tin Man in We Wizard of Oz?" 

“Buddy Ebsen,” Dwight said im- 
mediately. “Who the hell is this?” 

After a long breath, 1 said, “Jeff 
Martin.” 

He laughed. “Were you trying to 
refer to the 1910 version? Becau.se in 
that one, the Tin Man was — ” 

“No, the ’39 version. Dwight, what 
do you know about Jack Haley and 
The Wizard of Oz?" 

Simmon’s voice was surprised. 
“Haley? He had nothing to do with it, 
far as I know. He was in GWTW that 
year, and — ” 

“Haley? Jack Haley?” 

“What is this, a joke? Jeff Martin 
doesn’t remember that Jack Haley 
played the Union guard who’s in the 
poker game with Rhett and who es- 
corts Scarlett back to see him? Come 


on, what are you up to?” 

“Nothing,” 1 said. “Good-bye, 
Dwight.” 

My hands were shaking as I got 
down the double-tape set of Gone 
With the Wind. When the Tarleton 
twins (one of them definitely a pre- 
Superman George Reeves) stepped 
aside to reveal Bette Davis as Scarlett, 
1 heard myself sob. Using the fast- 
forward scan, I went through the 
whole movie in less than an hour. 
The main cast seemed the same as I 
remembered it, except for Scarlett — 
Clark Gable as Rhett (but there never 
had been any other serious contend- 
ers for that role), Olivia de Havilland 
as Melanie, Leslie Howard as Ashley, 
Thomas Mitchell, Hattie McDaniel, 
Butterfly McQueen — even Eddie An- 
derson, released from his role as Jack 
Benny’s factotum, Rochester, chased 
a scruffy, bedraggled rooster through 
the rain just as he should have. 

But the Yankee in the livery stable 
was Haley, sure enough. 

My movie books agreed with what 
I saw, not what 1 remembered. By 
now I was shaking all over. 1 started 
checking what the books said about 
other movies. 

Citizen Kane, Orson Welles . . . 
good. Duck Soup, the five Marx Broth- 
ers. Five? But Gummo had quit the 
team before their first movie! At least, 
in the world I remembered, he had. 

But what really stopped me cold 
was The Sands of two Jima. It didn’t 
exist. 


24 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



Not in Austin’s book, nor in Mal- 
tin’s, nor in any of the half a dozen 
others on my shelves. In its place was 
one I didn’t like the sound of at all: 

Sands of Oahu, 7ibe( 1946 — b&w) 
1 19 m. D: Allan Dwan. 

John Wayne, John Agar, Adele 
Mara, Forrest Tucker, Arthur Franz, 
Julie Bishop, Richard Jaeckel, Char- 
lie Ruggles. 

Not a bad war flick, and some- 
thing of a curiosity. It flopped in its 
original release because the Pacific 
Peace Accords with Japan were 
signed the same month, but Wayne’s 
patriotic portrayal of a hard-bitten 
Marine fighting in the desperate 
last-ditch stand on the Hawaiians 
can be seen in better perspective 
today. Ruggles surprisingly effective 
as a school principal who elected 
to remain behind when American 
civilians evacuated the islands. 

That sent me hunting for Hiro- 
shima, Mon Amour. It wasn’t in my 
books. But Hitler (1962) was, and 
one of my books told me the movie 
was a cerebral retelling of Hitler’s 
ri.se to power and his fall when the 
European War ended. 

The European War. That turned 
out to be the title of a movie, too. It 
starred mostly nonentities, was made 
in 1950 in black and white, and told 
“the story of the successful battle of 
the Allies again.st Germany, ending 
with the death of Hitler.” There was 


no movie on the Pacific War, but Pa- 
cific (1956 — French) was about 
“the efforts of Hawaiian Islanders, 
with help from the occupying Japa- 
nese, to rebuild a way of life. A sensi- 
tive documentary.” 

I needed air. I slipped my bare 
feet into deck shoes and walked out 
into the night. It had rained, and the 
pavement was still shiny-wet, the air 
unseasonably muggy, sluggish in the 
nostrils like steam, lying heavy as wet 
cotton in the lungs. 

Without intending to, I walked to 
the shopping center a mile from my 
suburban home. The supermarket 
glared its light in cold swatches of 
fluorescent white and warmer streaks 
of neon red across the wet asphalt 
parking lot, gleaming in a million wa- 
ter drops on the tops of the parked 
cars. The supermarket was open all 
night, as was the pharmacy next to it. 
As was Fat Phil’s. 

Fat Phil is one of those entrepre- 
neurs who have benefited from the 
electronic revolution. A couple of 
years back, Phil leased an empty store- 
front — not this one, a much smaller 
one down at the end of the shopping 
center, now a card and gift shop — 
and bought a couple of hundred vi- 
deotapes, which he proceeded to rent 
out at two bucks each per day. Since 
then, Phil has grown fatter and the 
store larger. The video store now oc- 
cupied what once had been a chain 
hardware store, and from the bustle 
inside, from the constantly narrowing 


Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, There’s No Place Like Home 


25 



aisles between the shelves of tapes, 
you could tell it would be moving to 
larger quarters any day now. 

I walked across the lot to Fat 
Phil’s. Outside his door, 1 paused to 
read the headline on a new.spaper in 
the rack. Somebody had just vowed 
to veto the budget Congress was 
sending him. 

Somebody I had never heard of. 

1 pushed through the door, pass- 
ing a family of four on the way out 
with a stack of Bugs Bunny and Mick- 
ey Mouse evenly divided between the 
girl and the boy. The first shelves to 
the left were classics, and they were 
the least rented. There I found breath- 
ing space. I also found Casablanca. 

Ronald Reagan and Ann Sheridan 
starred in it, according to the box. It 
became Reagan’s first hit, the box 
told me, at the time of its first re- 
lease. On the box front, in a sepia- 
toned still, Reagan looked very hand- 
some, very American in a white dinner 
jacket. I took the box. I had to .see 
Casablanca. 

In an hour I collected more than a 
dozen tapes that I had to see, from 
most of the racks in the store. The 
horror movies I left alone — the ti- 
tles and covers jarred me more than 
anything else had done so far. Some- 
thing had gone very wrong and very 
nasty with the horror-film industry 
around 1955, if these covers accurate- 
ly hinted at the contents of the movies. 

Fast Phil, looking sort of like an 
early Chuck Jones Porky Pig with hair. 


got to me after I had stood in line for 
ten minutes. “Busy night tonight, Mr. 
Martin,’ he said, his meaty hands flick- 
ing numbers on the regi.ster as his har- 
ried fourteen-year-old .son hurried 
to get my movies from the back. He 
had to put them in a shopping bag at 
la.st, there were so many of them. Phil 
toted up the rentals and the taxes. 
“Hunnert fifty-four, Mr. Martin.” 

A hundred and fifty-four dollars. 
My wallet held nowhere near that 
much — or did it? When I checked, 
the twenty-odd dollars that should 
have been there had somehow multi- 
plied into a thick wad of strange- 
looking gray bills. But my bank card 
looked the same as it always had. I 
passed him the plastic, and Phil ran 
the card through the imprinter. Only 
when I signed the slip did I notice 
the strange symbol: TOTAL: NS 154.00 
“What’s this, Phil?” I asked. 

Phil looked down without bend- 
ing. “That’s the right amount, Mr. 
Martin. Hunnert-forty for the movies, 
plus fourteen tax — ” 

“No, the symbol.” 

“New dollars? Christ, you remem- 
ber before we had the devaluation, 
don’t you? Ah, those Japs and their 
damn reparations. What can you do, 
right?” 

Somebody behind was clamoring 
for Phil’s attention, so I took my card 
and my bag and walked out into the 
night. 1 almost bought a paper, just to 
see who Somebody was and why he 
was vetoeing the budget, but, like the 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 


26 



(Cowardly Lion, 1 simply lacked the 
nerve. 

It was 10:30 when 1 got back 
home. First 1 put on Casablanca. The 
story was almost the same, not quite 
but almost, and 1 cried a little watch- 
ing it. 1 missed Claude Rains and Pe- 
ter Lorre, and most of all, Dooley Wil- 
son. The guy they had just wasn't as 
good. And Laszlo died in the last reel, 
shielding Ann Sheridan from Major 
Strasser’s bullet, but Rick picked off 
the major. Then he and Ann boarded 
the plane together to carry on the 
fight against fascism. ... It wasn’t the 
same. 

But God bless Gary Cooper and 
Grace Kelly. They and all the old fa- 
miliar faces waited for high noon — 
Thomas Mitchell was the mayor; Lon 
Chaney, Jr., the aged sheriff with arth- 
ritis and busted knuckles; Lloyd 
Bridges the callow deputy. 

The Hitchcocks seemed the same 
in two out of three cases: Rear Win- 
dow, Kelly again and Jimmy Stewart, 
and Thelma Ritter making sanguinary 
jokes about the supposed murder 
done by Raymond Burr. North by 
Northwest sliW began with Hitch miss- 
ing a bus. But what really surprised 
me was the Hitchcock Casino Royale, 
dope the year after North by North- 
west. It was a bit of a shock to en- 
counter Cary Grant as a debonair, 
lighthearted James Bond, but Leo G. 
Carroll fit the part of M. as though 
born to play it, and Grace Kelly (in 
her “royal return to the screen,” as 


one of my reference books put it) 
sparkled with an icy charm that hint- 
ed at hidden, smoldering dimensions. 
1 liked, too, Robert Morley’s droll Le 
Chiffre — cultured villainy, with a 
streak of cruelty ju.st below the sur- 
face. Hitch? He could be glimpsed in 
a traveling .shot, as Grant walked 
through the casino. The deadpan direc- 
tor .sat at a roulette table, calmly 
looking down as a scowling croupier 
shoved chips worth hundreds of thou- 
sands of francs over to him. Video- 
Movies gave it three and a half stars 
and noted, “the later Sean Connery 
Bonds are often more exciting, but 
the touch of the master makes this 
one a standout for humor, suspense, 
and sly menace.” 

More movies followed, as fast as 1 
could scan them, linger over a re- 
membered scene — or worse, one to- 
tally new to me — and consult my 
books. At three o’clock 1 called Fat 
Phil’s. Phil, who never seemed to 
sleep, answered genially enough. 

“Phil,” 1 said, “have you heard of 
anybody in town selling descramblers 
for satellite dishes?” 

After a momentary pause, Phil said, 
“Mr. Martin, if you really wanna know, 
1 got a friend who can fix you up — ” 

“Little guy, bald, drives a panel 
truck?” 

A longer pau.se. “Ah, naw. Naw, 1 
was thinking of my cousin, runs an 
electronics supply house. But that 
guy you mentioned, yeah, he was 
around here a week, ten days ago. 


Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, There’s No Place Like Home 


27 



Wanted my customer list. Lissen, Mr. 
Martin, you stay away from that guy. 
Door-to-door crooks like that, they’re 
out to take you. ” 

“Thanks,” I said. 1 looked at the 
descrambler perched so innocently 
on the shelf beside the VCR. After a 
moment I went out to the garage and 
came back with a set of screwdrivers. 

It took only a few .seconds to dis- 
cover the source of the sharp, acrid 
odor 1 had noticed earlier that eve- 
ning. The insides of the descrambler 
box were fused, charred, blackened, 
a mess. Maybe an electronics expert 
could fathom what the cinders once 
had been, but not 1. Still, I put the 
box back together again, very care- 
fully, and stored it on the top shelf of 
my bedroom closet. If that thing had 
changed the world — or if it had 
somehow changed me — there was 
at least a chance that it could change 
things back. 

That was about the time that it 
struck me: in less than two weeks; I 
would be the editor of Entertainment 
Week, a magazine with a circulation 
of nearly 2 million. My job would de- 
pend on my expertise about, among 
other things, movies. 

I knew nothing about a third or 
more of the movies I had checked 
out. Who had ever heard of Chicago 
Kills with Bogart and Cagney, or of 
To Love Again Tomorrow with Viv- 
ien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, or — 

Just thinking about them turned 
me cold. And then I thought about 


Edith, Billy and Erin. What would 
happen if I couldn’t swing it, if some- 
one at work decided I was nuts? And 
how could I not be nuts if I didn’t 
even know who was vetoing budgets 
these days? 

The rest of Sunday morning is a 
blur. I watched more films, became 
appalled at how brutal the portrayal 
of law and order turned in the early 
sixties, grew ill at the cruel humor 
directed against women, blacks, and 
Chicanos in comedies of the mid-sev- 
enties, and found myself increasingly 
uneasy at the jingoistic undertones of 
hits from just last year. I don’t remem- 
ber falling asleep Sunday, but I did, 
sometime before noon, and I woke 
up late at night. Again I walked to Fat 
Phil’s, and this time I checked out 
two hundred dollars’ worth of mov- 
ies. Two hundred new dollars’ worth. 

M 

I ▼ londay afternoon I called Phil 
again, got his cousin’s name. I bor- 
rowed Higgin’s station wagon and 
drove the descrambler over. 

I didn’t like the ways the city had 
changed over the weekend. Buildings 
I remembered as new, or at least as 
showing new facades, seemed relics 
of the thirties or even earlier. The 
city was dirty enough before, God 
knows, but this time, all around, there 
was a dispirited sort of grayness, a 
kind of underlying decay that reached 
even to the trees in the parks — few- 
er trees, too, and meaner-spirited 


28 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



parks, with no playground equipment 
aside from a few riisty swings, one or 
two home-fashioned wooden teeter- 
totters. And close to the airport the 
sound of airplanes penetrated the sta- 
tion wagon’s closed windows, the 
droning roar of prop planes. I saw 
two or three of them. What they were 
1 don’t know, but none were 747s. 
None were jets, for that matter. 

In the heart of the city, I found a 
parking place a block from the ad- 
dress Phil had given me, between an 
ancient but well-tended Ford and a 
shiny new red Japanese car. At least it 
looked Japanese; I didn’t recognize 
the model name, at least not as the 
name of a car — the Hero. 

With no real trouble, 1 found the 
red-brick electronics place. Phil’s 


cousin was one of those scrawny types 
with acne and thick glasses, the type 
who nowadays is always the first one 
killed when the hero of a movie de- 
cides the town is overrun with freaks. 
But he seemed to know his stuff, and 
it took him only a few minutes to op- 
en up and empty the cabinet, to .sort 
among the debris. Finally he looked 
up, bafflement .showing on his face. 
“Sorry, mister,” he .said. “Some of the 
•Stuff in this box — it’s stuff that 
doesn’t even exist, as far as I know. 
Where did you get it, anyway?” 

“Never mind,” I said, and took the 
descrambler away in a cardboard box. 

On the way home through the un- 
familiar city, through my city, I 
thought long and hard. Something ter- 
rible had happened, something per- 


SAVE : $13.00 

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Oh Tin Man, Tin Man, There’s No Place Like Home 


29 




haps irrevocable. If I could find the 
little bald man and his green panel 
truck — but how do you do that? 
Take an ad in the paper? That would 
be easy for me. 

But what if he didn’t show up? 
What would I do then? 

I decided just as I neared the shop- 
ping center. 1 pulled in and rented 
more movies from Fat Phil. 

It’s Tue.sday now, and 1 haven’t 
slept more than two hours since Sun- 
day evening. I have thirteen days, or 
nearly thirteen, before I have to sit in 
the editor’s chair of Entertainment 
Week. Thirteen days isn’t a long time. 
You can’t read too many books in thir- 
teen days. 

But if you sleep as little as po.ssi- 


ble, you can see a hell of a lot of mov- 
ies. And I’m learning what our movies 
have to teach. They teach more than 
we realize about attitudes, aspirations, 
directions — about what makes a 
man smart, or kind, or brave. And 
from the way tho.se men are treated, 
you can learn a lot about the society, 
too, about where we’ve gone, where 
we are now. So for the next thirteen 
days. I’ll drink coffee, watch movies, 
and learn. I’ll call Edith and tell her 
to extend her stay another week, and 
all alone I’ll watch movies. 

Despite the temptation to turn off 
the recorder. I’ll keep it on. No “TV.” 
Just movies and nothing but movies. 

Becau.se, God help me. I’m afraid 
to watch the news. 


FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, Box 56, Cornwall, CT 06753 7751 

□ Yes, send me 12 issues of F&SF, the award-winning magazine, for 
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30 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 




C J. Cherryh, 

Robert Lynn Asprin, Lynn Abbey, 
Janet and Chris Morris and others 


C]. 

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^ Nstributed by NAL 


DAW 



The Glasf Hammer, K.W. Jeter, Signet, 
I2.9S 

Worlds of If, Frederik Pohl, Martin Harry 
Greenberg and Joseph D, Olander, eds., 
Bluejay Books, J19.9S; 110.95 in trade 
paper 

Science Fiction in Print: 1985, Charles N. 
Brown, William G. Contento, eds.. Locus 
Press, P.O. Box 13305, Oakland, CA 94661, 
*29 95 + $2.00 po.stage 

J.T. McIntosh, Memoir and Bibliograohy. 
Ian Covell, ed., Drumm Booklet *25. Chris 
Drumm, Books, P.O. Box 445, Polk City, 
lA 50226, $2.00; Signed: 15.00 

In .some quarters — certainly in 
this one — K.W. Jeter is a figure of 
some mystery and legend. The story 
is that he was an associate, admirer 
and apprentice of Philip K. Dick, and 
the aura is of someone who is not 
particulary wedded to the grand old 
traditions of the field. Dick — as you 
will see if you read his memoir in 
Worlds of If, or if you know much 
about him from some other source, 
evolved toward a positive separation 
from the SF traditions that had in- 
itiated his career. Someone heavily 
attracted to Dick’s late-life work and 
thought would have to be someone 
prepared to be only lightly engaged 
with the traditional SF community. 
ALSO, despite the fact that Jeter’s first- 
published novel, the outre and dedi- 
catedly antiestablishmentarian Dr. 
Adder, was reputedly quite old be- 
fore it saw mass print a couple of 
years ago, he remains perhaps the on- 
ly writer under sixty who hasn’t .staked 


32 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 




a formal claim to having foreshadowed 
Cyperpunk. 

He never to my knowledge even 
appears on any of the SF convention 
panels where Cyberpunk writing is 
discussed. That certainly does it; rec- 
lusive, enigmatic, degage, K.W. Jeter 
is a figure in shadow, bound on er- 
rands we know not of, quite likely 
winding the clockwork of some in- 
fernal machine that will blow this en- 
tire field into a new configuration 
just as soon as he can toss his device 
out from under his cloak. 

Or maybe not. Maybe he’s just a 
guy" possessed of the need to write 
fiction, as bemused as anyone by the 
compulsiveness with which each new 
SF writer is speedily assigned a (mar- 
ketable) persona that may have little 
to do with the facts, let alone with 
common courtesy. 

If just a guy . . . pretend, for a mo- 
ment, that this is somehow possible 
here at the cutting edge of the Media 
Age ... if just a guy, with the work 
separable from whatever he may look, 
taste and smell like personally, then 
what of the work when separated- 
out? What flavors? 

Our task in this respect is made 
easier by the release of Signet’s mass- 
market paperback, as distinguished 
from the 1985 Bluejay first edition, at 
S8.95 as a 248pp (trade) pb. (This 
latter information made available to 

■/ use the term in its American, not its 
British connotations, of course. 


me by my review copy of Brown and 
Contento’s Science Fiction in Print: 
1985-] This Signet first rack-size edi- 
tion is surely the one most of you will 
buy. And you should; if you don’t 
know this book, you don’t know ev- 
erything important in today’s SF. 
What’s more, you’ve missed out on 
some quite intelligent entertainment. " 

The Glass Hammer is entertain- 
ing, and intelligent, de.spite the fact 
that it’s written very much like this 
review, are you with me, K.W. Jeter? 
In fact, it’s probably not quite as well- 
constructed a speculation as it seems, 
taking advantage of the effect created 
by multiple flashbacks, variations in 
prose mode, and narrow focus held on 
foreground events whilst sketching 
in a lot of noises offstage. If some- 
thing seems missing in the skein as 
the reader unravels it, there is some 
tendency to assume it may very well 
have been there but has been over- 
looked in the reading. In the case of 
some aspects of The Glass Hammer, 
it simply isn’t there at all, and in oth- 
er cases requires so much re-reading 

'The two things aren’t really separable 
from each other by my lights. I think a 
hook that's not entertaining enough to 
catch, involve and hold a median reader 
can not, per se, be of sufficient impor- 
tance to alter the course of the water. AH 
honor, of course, to those few whose 
sense of duty constrains them to draw 
charts by running up on the rocks and 
reefs of grim exposition. Those are prob- 
ably excellent charts of where not to go 
yesterday. 


Books 


33 



and puzzling-out that it’s very likely 
too much effort. But what Jeter has 
put into this book is sufficiently im- 
pressive. We are dealing here with a 
talent whose excellences are large 
and whose shortcomings are expre.s- 
sive of choices made, perhaps un- 
wi.seiy but made, rather than being 
sigils of some inherent and unexam- 
ined mediocrity.' 

The question is, what would it be 
like to be God’s father? Schuyler the 
,sprint-car driver, stooge for the Speed 
Death, Inc., media octopus, of course 
does not believe that his son is God. 
But he believes that the Godfriend 
warrior-maidens of his post-Hoiocaust 
culture do so believe, and the workers 
rioting in ecstasy among their dorms 
in South America do, and for some 
little while he even believes in the 
“numinous protection” afforded him 
by this relationship, as he repeatedly 
survives the nightly Phoenix-L.A. run 
on which the killer .satellites are ra- 
pidly reducing his peers to zero. 

Furthermore, little Lumen, even 
at the age of five, .seems pretty con- 
vincing. Schyuler, and Lumen’s 
mother, Cynth, tell each other it’s all 
cultural; the boy is being raised in iso- 
lation by the Godfficnds, who rein- 
force the belief-system with every 
breath he takes and shield him, and 
themselves, from all possible contra- 

'We shall he getting to some comments 
on J. T. McIntosh's work and its signifi- 
cance to SF as a literature. 


dictions. Lumen is not really predict- 
ing the future or influencing present 
events, and if he seems remarkably 
self-contained for someone of his 
years, well, that, too, is an artifact. . . . 
But Schuyler kills him anyway, with 
Lumen’s blessing and the coopera- 
tion of all concerned, though 1 missed 
Cynth’s reaction. 

This is not a story about sprint-car 
drivers “smuggling” on behalf of the 
world’s only source of a particular 
Maguffin, nor is it a story about post- 
Holocaust social quirks, and it’s not 
about Speed Death, Inc., for all that 
all sorts of media hardware and media 
types are deployed within this book, 
rather palely. It’s a story about the 
stuff of organized religion, and a sto- 
ry about worship, which are two 
things not exactly the same. 

It’s also remarkably thin in the 
parts which are the same as those re- 
spective parts in Roger Zelazny’s 
Damnation Alley, William Gibson’s 
Neurotnancer, and Walter M. Miller, 
Jr.’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. The 
sprint-car driving/ dodging/exploding 
sequences are nearly nonexistent. I 
think Jeter chose to do that — after 
all, not only did Zelazny execute them 
well enough, but others have repeat- 
ed them quite often. Then, the cul- 
ture of the entire West Coast is one 
founded on a Church which became, 
again, the repository of all surviving 
knowledge, but whose relevance now 
is questionable, and which has brok- 
en into sects so that the Godfriends 


34 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



and the Cathedra Novum (sic) barely 
tolerate each other. There is nothing 
to distinguish this material from anal- 
ogous sections of Canticle, preceding 
World War IIII, and as he did with 
Zelazny, Jeter leaves all the fine detail 
of this part to Miller. Speed Death, 
Inc., its media empire, its complex 
connection to the worker-dorm so- 
ciety, and its pervasion of the rest of 
the world’s governing aspects, is ge- 
neric to SF at least as far back as E.M. 
Forster’s “The Machine Stops,” and 
Jeter has left it to Gibson to show us 
how it will all work soon or is work- 
ing already. In other words. I’m con- 
vinced Jeter is renting all this furni- 
ture, and pretty plainly so. 

What is original Jeter — not even 
Philip K. Dick, really , despite re- 
minders of Valis — is the ingenious 
theology, and the superb characteri- 
zation and thematic format of Bischof- 
sky, the earnest craftsman whose life 
is devoted to reconstructing a shat- 
tered stained-glass window. The sup- 
position is, is it not, that no matter 
what time has done to scatter the 
fragments and expunge the records, 
modern technology can probably re- 
cover and fit them all back into their 
original picture . . . and that of course 
there is a picture, and that it was 
made all of this glass. But the more 
Bischofsky studies and the more he 
bends his mind to this task, the more 
ingenious the technological resour- 
ces that permit reviewing and pro- 
jecting all the possible combinations 


of these bits, the farther his growing 
agony takes him from the one true 
answer. It’s in these segments — Jeter 
speaks of segments, rather than chap- 
ters — that we see why Jeter wrote 
this book, and are, I hope, glad of it. 
Certainly I was glad of it; the 
Bischofsky material is first-class insight 
and first-class illumination of insight. 

I can see why some people want 
to claim Jeter for Cyberpunk, and I 
can even see their various reasons. 
But in here is the same essential 
preoccupation with godhead that un- 
derlies all of speculative fiction and 
has underlain science fiction since 
Mary Wollstonecraft invented or dis- 
covered this form of literature. The 
Glass Hammer, like many another 
nominally classifiable work in this 
field, cannot voraciously be assigned 
some unique contemporaneity. It is 
as much one with Frankenstein as it 
is with the latest effusion from a 
category-fiction PR department. 

I think Jeter is saying so in the way 
he has pieced this book together. 

On the other hand, majfje not. 

Here’s another one you should 
have if you care about enigmatic and 
lost segments of SF’s past (and good 
reading): Worlds of If is a companion 
to the previous Galaxy anthology in- 
itiated by the indefatigable and inge- 
nious Martin Harry Greenberg. (^Gal- 
axy, thirty years of innovative science 
fiction, same three editors. Playboy 
Press, J10.95, 1980) It differs from 


Books 


35 



the Galaxy in not having an index — 
the one in the earlier book is anyhow 
its only poor feature — but is other- 
wise the same in concept; it reprints 
stories from over the span of the 
magazine’s life, and in most cases 
provides relevant memoirs by their 
authors. Much of this is Good Stuff by 
heavyweight people. You want to re- 
member that in 1967 IF 'won Hugos 
for Best Magazine, Best Novel, Best 
Novelette, Best Short Story, and Best 
Artist, according to the introduction 
by Fred Pohl, who was Editor then. 
The Harlan Ellison memoir on his “1 
Have No Mouth, and 1 Must Scream,” 
while perhaps unreadable under most 
conditions of the mind, is worth the 
price of the book on sheer weight 
alone, nihil obstat. 

If you were wondering why some- 
one should care, the fact is that per- 
haps, as this book asserts, something 
went out of SF, perhaps coincidental- 
ly, that has not returned since If’s 
demise. Perhaps there were things 
about it that we don’t yet understand, 
but should. It was a peculiar rider on 
the SF boom of the 1950s, eventually 
to be killed for being too successful 
in the 1960s, and for more on all of 
this I refer you to the anthology itself, 
whose nonfiction material — by 
among others Larry Shaw, Barry Malz- 
berg and myself in addition to Pohl 
— reflects a widespread tendency to 
attempt to explain the magazine. 

A special asset to this book is the 
essay by Shaw, the first SFnally know- 


ledgeable editor //"had. Shaw was the 
man who captured James Blish’s “A 
Case of Conscience” for the maga- 
zine during the most recent previous 
major outbreak of frankly religion- 
based stories in SF. His essay on If 
and its founding publisher/editor, 
James Quinn, fdls in a lot of hitherto 
opaque gaps. And it prompts some 
rumination. 

When I dedicated Rogue Moon to 
“Larry Shaw, Journeyman Editor,” it 
was with some trepidation. In com- 
mon usage, a “journeyman” baseball 
player, for instance, will never be 
eulogized at Cooperstown. But in the 
trade unions, a journeyman is consi- 
dered fit to leave home and stand up 
to the rain. I decided that as long as 
Larry and I understood the nature of 
the compliment intended, it would 
be O.K. 

This field has its roots in com- 
merce and pulp no matter where its 
head might be. It takes a peculiar 
blend of common sense and nurtured 
romanticism to operate effective pub- 
lishing enterprises within it. The li- 
terature and any number of other fea- 
tures are constantly re-inventing 
themselves. You can navigate on in- 
stinct some of the time, and occa- 
sionally produce spectacular results, 
but the useful long-term quality is the 
one that causes you to go through all 
the moves, by the manual. The reason 
for this is that the product of your 
individual instinct is already obsolete 
by the time you attempt to use it 


36 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



again. Others have taken and run with 
it. Until you can detect the next new 
thing, or find ways to harness new- 
ness itself, you have to have the self- 
discipline to prevent yourself from 
going off in obsolete new directions. 
On the other hand, there is the con- 
stant need to contribute to the ongo- 
ing communal re-write of the manu- 
al, so that there is progress and a 
response to evolution. It’s not easy to 
do this without losing your balance; I 
notice it’s even difficult to explain. 

Few features in the history of mod- 
ern SF illustrate these truths so well 
as the narrative of James Quinn’s con- 
ception and direction of If in the very 
early 1950s, the contemplation of 
what Shaw might have made of it in 
the mid-’50s if Quinn had given him 
even as much of a free hand as Irwin 
Stein later gave him at Infinity, and 
the record of what Frederik Pohl did 
make of it in the 1960s, when //"was 
purchase from Quinn to be Galaxy’s 
companion. 

Well, at any rate, this book has 
been so long in the coming-out that 
Shaw, Philip K. Dick and Theodore 
Sturgeon have died in the meanwhile. 
(1 feel fine, thank you.) That’s be- 
cause Playboy Press went through a 
gyration few understand but which 
left this book an orphan despite the 
success of the Galaxy volume. And 
now, of course, it was the book in 
process when Bluejay went through a 
gyration that involves a publishing 
consolidation of far-reaching but un- 


predictable consequences. This event 
includes Tor Books, just when it 
seemed Tor would be the new bell- 
wether in SF; may very well yet be, 
nevertheless, but as a division of St. 
Martin’s. 

The more I look at it, the more it 
seems the If book was the perfect 
one for Bluejay to be doing at this 
time. 

A brand-new publishing venture, 
and hopefully one destined to remain 
successful a long, long time, is re- 
presented by Science Fiction in Print: 
1985, a major service of Locus Maga- 
zine’s Charles N. Brown and William 
G. Contento, of the justly praised and 
long reliable Contento Index to 
Science Fiction Anthologies and Col- 
lections {•whose. format this new book 
uses). We are talking about people 
with a track record and the latest 
milestone of their production. 

Accurately subtitled “A Compre- 
hensive Bibliography of Books and 
Short Fiction Published in the Eng- 
lish Language,” Brown-Contento is 
the first production of Locus Press. It 
looks at hundreds of sources, lists 
books by title and by author, lists 
1985 original publications, lists the 
contents of anthologies, devotes 25 
S'A X 1 1 pages to a subject list, and 
then goes on to list the authors and 
titles of short stories. Appended are 
summaries on book and magazine 
publishing for the year, cinema pro- 
duction, a Recommended Reading list 


Books 


37 



from Locus Magazine’s review staff, 
and finally a list of small-press pub- 
lisher addresses. 

It’s all in there; the entire year, 
and your library certainly ought to be 
told about its existence. 500 hard- 
cover copies represent the entire run; 
buyers will be entitled to a free cor- 
rection-sheet service if they furnish a 
3x5 card with their name and ad- 
dress. A fairly relaxed scan did not 
indicate much need for it (but you 
never say never); One devoutly hopes 
this volume will find enough support 
to justify subsequent yearbooks. 

That indefatigable and evidently 
growing enterprise, Chris Drumm, 
Books, has now reached another .stage 
of value. Hitherto it was a source of 
author bibliographies, of otherwise 
unobtainable and often .striking fic- 
tion by R.A. Lafferty and Richard Wil- 
son, of (1 blush) a uniquely valuable 
essay called “Nonliterary Influences 
on Science Fiction,” in the only auth- 
orized edition, by Algis Budrys, and 
of catalogs of books for sale by 
Drumm. All of these were little pam- 
phlets, about 4x7, some of them .self- 
covered, and only in the future arc 
you going to find examples typeset by 
computer; even this latest one is still 
reproduced from typewriting, in this 
case typewriting done on something 
a little below IBM in qualify’. But it’s 
certainly readable, and it’s tellingly 
valuable inasmuch as it’s the memoir 
of a writer who flourished in the 


1 960s and was one of Damon Knight’s 
outstanding critical targets because 
he was almost good. 

Judging by the memoir, James Mac- 
gregor is an honest workman, God 
bless him, who has done the best he 
could whenever circumstances per- 
mitted. But he stands before us here 
today because he is a prototype, and I 
apologize to him for making a lay fig- 
ure of him for our purposes here. 

’Round about 1950 there was an 
SF boom, in which this magazine. 
Galaxy, If, and scores of other titles 
were launched to various effects. 
Shortly thereafter, the book market 
for SF began to perk up, and this re- 
presented the first media reconfigu- 
ration the field had seen since 1926. 
It’s fair to say that what happened in 
the fifteen years after 1950 is still 
very much with us. Sometimes in the 
sense that Philip K. Dick began then, 
did not end then, and is responsible 
for at least some of what the K.W. 
Jeters arc doing. Sometimes in the 
sense that some of us who first ap- 
peared then are still around, have ar- 
rived in 1987 by various paths, and 
speak in ways we would not have 
thought of had we come some other 
way. 

But in among the hopeful new 
launches of bright young post-adole- 
scents hippety-hopping around in this 
Spring pond and looking forward to 
dropping their tails someday were 
“J.T. M’Into,sh” and his imitators; not 
so much SF fans as careerists, not 


38 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



burdened by untoward aspiration, of- 
fered the opportunity, thanks to pro- 
liferation, to make a living at SF did 
they but turn out enough of it speedi- 
ly enough. Macgregor’s debut did not 
precede this time. He was not signifi- 
cantly older than Dick, or Robert 
Sheckley, who were looked upon in 
1951 as people just setting out; trying 
their talents, searching for the ulti- 
mate direction of their powers. But 
M’lntosh arrived clearly as he would 
always be; competent, industrious, 
and capable of filling pages. Never 
once did he betray any desire to 
evolve his skills beyond the point of 
basic acceptability, and in Knight’s 
eyes, at least, rarely did he think a 
story situation past the point of first- 
impression plausibility. Under 
Knight’s scalpel, his work came apart 
. . . usefully, for some of us young 


ones who could feel something not 
quite right in M’Intosh’s constructs, 
but couldn’t quite parse it out. 

The point I am making here is that 
there were a number of M’Intoshes 
during that time; though it seems a 
terribly rude thing to say, I feel that 
the history of SF would be essentially 
the same if they had never published 
a word, yet they fulfilled many a 
reader’s expectation and were often 
acceptable to people whose percep- 
tions are respected. M’lntosh was, for 
intance, a rather frequent byline in 
F&SF under the editorship of Anthony 
Boucher and J. Francis McComas. 

The memoir is straightforward ex- 
position, businesslike but not stiff, 
and tells us, I think, a very great deal 
about the difference between one 
kind of young writer and another. I 
recommend it highly. 


Books to Look For 

by Orson Scott Card 

REPLAY, Ken Grimwood, (Arbor dies, leaving behind a failing marriage 
House, cloth, $17.95) and a tired career. So why does he 

Jeff Winston has a heart attack and find himself back in 1 963, in college. 


This new column of short reviews will he a regular F&SF department, which 
will appear in addition to the Books essay hy Algis Budrys. The new column 
is in the hands of Orson Scott Card, known to F&SF readers for his short 
fiction. Mr. Card is also a novelist ( whose Ender’s Game won the 1986 Hugo 
and Nebula awards for best novel ) and a critic, whose reviews have ap- 
peared in Science Fiction. Review and other publications. 


Books To Look For 


39 




in his own youthful body, with all his 
memories of the next twenty years 
intact? 

What would jyoM do? Jeff makes a 
quick fortune gambling on sure things; 
this time the 1970s and 1980s are 
filled with the glamor and disappoint- 
ment of wealth. Until he dies again. 
And again wakes up in 1963. 

And again, and again, replays of 
his past life, each time wi.ser than the 
time before, each time surprised by 
new joy, new pain: Children he raised 
and then lost, lovers who don’t want 
him the second time around. Desper- 
ately lonely with all his knowledge 
that he cannot share, he searches for 
others caught in the same endless 
loop of lifetimes. And finds some. 

Grimwood’s style is clear, pene- 
trating. He leads us through Jeff Win- 
ston’s lives with great skill, never lin- 
gering too long with any one experi- 
ence, never moving so rapidly that 
we cannot taste the flavor of each 
passage through the decades. 

Replay is a Pilgrim 's Progress for 
our time, a stern yet affectionate por- 
trait of the lives we lead. When I fin- 
ished it. 1 felt 1 had been moving with 
the hidden rhythm of life, that I had 
.seen more clearly, that I had loved 
more deeply than is ever possible in 
one short passage of years. 

Don’t look here for heroes with 
blasters or magic .swords. Replay isn’t 
bigger than life. Instead it shows how 
large our small lives really are. 


ARSLAN, M.J. Engh, (Arbor House, 
cloth, $16.95) 

You want to know how an editor 
shows courage? It isn’t by saving ba- 
bies from burning buildings. Editorial 
courage is when you tell the publish- 
er that you want to reprint, as a hard- 
cover, a science fiction novel by 
.somebody that nobody ever heard of, 
a novel that came out as a paperback 
original nearly a decade ago — and 
flopped. 

TTiat’s the kind of proposal that 
can get an editor permanently labeled 
as crazy. 

But that’s exactly what David 
Hartwell did at Arbor Hou.se, with 
Mary Jane Engh’s Arslan. And David 
Hartwell isn’t crazy. Because this 
book, which has been languishing in 
the grey reaches of the Land of Out- 
of-Print for all these years, is without 
question one of the finest works of 
fiction of our generation. 

Arslan has conquered the world; 
nobody quite knows how. He comes 
into a small Illinois town, takes all 
the children hostage, and commits 
selected acts of public rape and mur- 
der to break the will of the people. 
Arslan forces the grade school prin- 
cipal, Franklin Bond, to run the com- 
munity in his name, as he deliberately 
di.smantles all trade, all industry, all 
of modern life. Yet this is only the 
beginning of his terrible plan for man- 
kind. 

What makes this book .so brilliant, 
so terrible in its truth, is that Arslan is 


40 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



not the villain but the hero. Engh 
knows our terrible secret: humanity’s 
clandestine love affair with absolute 
power, how we worship even as we 
rebel. Some readers will hate this 
book for precisely that reason; Engh 
exposes a side of human nature that 
we would like to deny. 

But we can’t deny it. Hitler was 
real; so was Stalin. Yet in the four de- 
cades since these towering figures 
left the world stage, we still have not 
begun to explain them or understand 
why, as hideous as they were, great 
nations loved and followed them. Ex- 
cept in the pages of Arslan. 

That’s how important I believe 
Arslan is. Yet because it was a “cate- 
gory” book with a military cover, be- 
cause it had no hype when it first ap- 
peared, almost nobody knew about it. 
Hartwell knew. Algis Budrys knew, 
when he praised this book a few 
years ago in these very pages. Now 
I’ve told you agai” and the book is 
there for you to buy. So buy it. Read 
it. 

I don’t promise that you’ll enjoy 
it. It isn’t always fun to have your eyes 
opened. 

But maybe that’s how a reader 
shows courage. 

AGENT OF BYZANTIUM, Harry 
Turtledove, (Contemporary Books, 
cloth, J 15.95) 

Harry Turtledove is a historian, 
and the Byzantine Empire is his spe- 
cialty. Harry Turtledove is also a very 


talented science fiction writer, with 
a gift for finding a way to present a 
fascinating idea through strong, be- 
lievable characters. 

So when Turtledove writes about 
an alternate history in which 
Mohammed never founded Islam and 
Byzantium never fell, he never falters. 
His protagonist, Basil Argyros, is the 
consummate bureaucrat in the impe- 
rial bureaucracy whose twists and 
turns made “byzantine” the English 
word for awesome complexity. Argy- 
ros becomes the agent who deals 
with several dire threats to the em- 
pire; we, as modern readers, realize 
that what he is really doing is bring- 
ing the Renaissance and an industrial 
and scientific revolution to Byzantium. 

Turtledove could have been con- 
tent with his clever ideas, which are 
good enough for most writers of idea- 
oriented science fiction — but he is 
not. Over the course of the book, Ar- 
gt'ros becomes a powerful figure as 
he faces change and loss with cour- 
age and resourcefulness. After a while 
you realize that this book is not 
“about” the discovery of the tele- 
scope, vaccination, or the printing 
press; it is about human response to 
change. 

We who read sf magazines should 
take a special delight in this book; 
we’ve been watching Turtledove since 
he debuted a couple of years ago 
with remarkable maturity in his story- 
telling. Book readers are only now 
discovering what we’ve seen all along. 


Books To Look For 


41 



(This feeling of smug superiority is 
only one of the rewards of reading sf 
magazines, but it’s one of my fa- 
vorites. ) 

THE TRUE GAME SERIES, Sheri S. 
Tepper, (Peter’s books: King’s Blood 
Four, Necromancer Nine, Wizard’s 
Eleven-, Mavin’s books: The Song of 
Mavin Manyshaped, The Flight of 
Mavin Manyshaped, The Search of 
Mavin Manyshaped (Ace, *2.75-*2.95 
ea.]; Jinian’s books: Jinian Footseer, 
Dervish Daughter, Jinian Star-Eye 
(Tor, $2.95 ea.]) 

This looks for all the world like 
the standard fantasy series, complete 
with a gaming motif. “Ah,” says the 
jaded reader, “another Dungeons and 
Dragons rehash.” 

Wrong, says this equally jaded re- 
viewer. Tepper is something special, 
and so is this series. It starts out feel- 
ing like fantasy, sure enough, with an 
aristocracy of Gamesmen who use 
startling powers in their wars and 
feuds. 

But soon enough we realize that 
this is not fantasy at all. It is science 
fiction, set on a world settled by hu- 
man beings many centuries before; 
and beneath the True Game is a con- 
test even deeper, between the native 
inhabitants of the planet and the hu- 
man interloper?. It leads to a power- 
ful, illuminating conclusion that lifts 
this story out of the ranks of grunting 
blood-and-thunder adventure and in- 
to the heady realm of thoughtful, en- 


tertaining science fiction. 

Tepper isn’t perfect. There are 
flaws ranging from the trivial — her 
characters throw up a bit too often 
— to the substantial — the structure 
of the series is awkward, with the sec- 
ond trilogy (Mavin’s books) being a 
flashback from the first (Peter’s 
books). But the story is well worth 
the occasional inconvenience, and it 
marks Tepper as a writer to watch. 

THE BEST F & SF NOVELS OF 1986 

In alphabetical order (by title), 
the novels that stood out as the best 
of the best 1 read. 

Robert Charles Wilson, A Hidden 
Place (Bantam). Two frail aliens are 
trapped in Depression-era small-town 
America, where they must depend on 
alienated humans to save them. Wil- 
son’s exquisitely written first novel 
takes an unblinking look at how we 
try to own the people we love. 

Leigh Kennedy, The Journal of 
Nicholas the American (Atlantic 
Monthly Press). Kennedy’s first novel 
is the compelling story of a young 
man who has inherited his family’s 
sensitivity to other people’s pain, and 
is nearly destroyed by the desperate 
need of a dying woman. 

Mike Resnick, Santiago (Tor). If 
you want, you can read this as a 
wonderful rip-roaring space opera/ 
westem/detective/mystery/ spy novel. 
But it’s also a carefully layered exam- 
ination of the tension between indi- 
viduality and responsibility, between 


42 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



legend and reality. 

Pamela Sargent, The Shore of 
Women (Crown). Birana is exiled 
from the peaceful, high-tech city of 
women for her mother’s crime; Arvil 
is the man assigned by the “gods” to 
murder her. Their saga may be one of 
the great novels of science fiction. 

Terry Bisson, Talking Man (Ar- 
bor House). It’s hard to believe that 
the same book can take you through 
the Mississippi Canyon, the burning 
of Denver, and an auto race across 
the dry Arctic basin; but Bisson brings 
off his story of a Kentucky junkyard 
wizard with panache. 

The Honor Roll: Stephen R. Boyett, 
Architect of Sleep (Ace): a fragmen- 
tary visit to an America ruled by rac- 
coons. Michael P. Kube-McDowell, 
(Berkley): cosmic sci-fi at its 
best. Isaac Asimov, Foundation and 
(Doubleday): all talk, no action 
— but Asimov’s talk is action. Mar- 
garet Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale 
(Houghton Mifflin): a dark if-this- 
goes-on story of Fundamentalist 
America. James Morrow, This Is the 
Way the World Ends (Henry Holt): a 
bittersweet comedy that assigns the 
blame for World War III. Megan Lind- 
holm. Wizard of the Pigeons (Ace): 
magic among Seattle street people. 



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Books To Look For 


43 


Neil IV. Hiller (“First I Came to Los Angeles,” August 1986) 
here deals with a common complaint among writers about the 
editor (or editors) who cruelly cuts a manuscript to the bone. 


The Orphan 

BY 

NEIL W. HILLER 


M Wendel Newhouse. The name 
popped into postman John McNally’s 
mind the moment he heard the first 
heavy footfalls of Newhouse’s ponder- 
ous galumphing on the wooden stairs 
above. 

Apartment 4G, McNally thought 
to himself, deftly slotting the day’s 
last envelope for 387 East 7th Street 
into its box from between his first 
two fingers. Amateurs used thumbs. 
McNally was a veteran of many years 
in “his” East Village neighborhood. 

He smiled as he swung the master 
door rattling back into place, where 
it closed with a soft click. He scooped 
his keys from the end of the square- 
linked brass chain attached to a belt 
loop, and locked up. Not much for 
The Big Guy today. 

Despite years of practice at asso- 
ciating the faces and persons of the 
shopkeepers and apartment dwellers 


on his route with the names on the 
outside of the mail he delivered to 
them, McNally knew he couldn’t al- 
ways attach a name to someone greet- 
ing him on the street, or to a person 
whose footsteps he heard approach- 
ing from down a hallway. So he allow- 
ed himself a reasonable margin of er- 
ror in the memory game he had in- 
vented long ago to keep the dullish 
days, otherwise indistinct, from fus- 
ing together. 

But people like the tenant of apart- 
ment 4G, now noisily descending the 
stairs, made McNally’s memory game 
very easy at times. He reviewed his 
mental image of Newhouse; an enor- 
mous man six feet four inches tall at 
least, and not a lot under three hun- 
dred pounds in weight, McNally 
guessed. Still, at that, Newhouse’s 
head appeared somehow outsized, 
surmounted as it was w'ith his sur- 


44 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



pluses of wavy brown hair combed 
back over his ears and seemingly sup- 
ported from beneath by the man’s lux- 
uriant, dark brown, carefully trimmed 
full beard. 

In fact, Newhouse looked exactly 
like McNally’s central casting image 
of a Mountain Man as McNally observ- 
ed him around the neighborhood, fre- 
quently, it seemed, carrying double 
armloads of bulging grocery sacks, or 
with a twelve-pack of beer slung ef- 
fortlessly under each arm. 

Newhouse’s usual costume, a plaid 
flannel lumberjack shirt under yards 
of Oshkosh B’Gosh bib overalls over 
high-topped work boots, had helped 
form McNally’s showfolk image of the 
oversized addressee. But Newhouse 
was not an actor at all, though there 
were several of them living on McNal- 
ly’s route. He was, however, someone 
just as interesting as an actor to Mc- 
Nally and memorable for the purposes 
of McNally’s game — for Newhouse 
was a writer. 

McNally had delivered loads of let- 
ters and bulky brown envelopes with 
names in the return addresses that he 
had recognized from the spines of 
books like Fairer, Strout on Union 
Square, or Doubleton up on Park 
Avenue. 

In fact, McNally reckoned, New- 
house had had manuscripts returned 
by just about every publisher he knew 
the name of — and not a few by those 
he didn’t. 

The man himself now clumped 


down the last few stairs to the land- 
ing and heaved into McNally’s view 
through the doorway into the lobby. 

“Morning, John,” Newhouse huffed 
from the effort of his descent, his 
booming basso voice nevertheless re- 
verberating off the dull white tile in 
the small foyer. He planted an outsiz- 
ed left palm on the murky green paint 
well above where the tile ended, and 
leaned against it. His right hand was 
wrapped around the carton of one of 
his twelve-packs, resting on his den- 
imed hip. “Anything from the presi- 
dent for me today, John?” 

“Nah, nothing important for you, 
Tom,” McNally answered. “Just your 
Con Ed bill and the United Way solici- 
tation everybody’s getting today,” he 
smiled, wondering how much there 
was for a charity to collect out of 
such a building as Newhouse lived in. 
“Say,” he continued, “little early for a 
six-pack, ain’a? Let alone two like you 
got there,” he said, pointing at the 
carton under the big man’s arm. 

Newhouse threw back his head 
and roared with mirth at the thought. 
“Right, John. Except this isn’t beer in 
here.” He removed his hand from the 
W'all and patted the box with it. “This 
is my new novel, my baby. World 
Enough and Time. ” 

“You mean you’ve got a book in 
there?” McNally asked, his practiced 
eye measuring. “Must be at least a 
thousand pages.” 

“Eleven hundred in manuscript,” 
Newhouse responded proudly. “It’ll 


The Orphan 


45 



probably go at about seven hundred 
or so when it’s typeset.” 

The two alternated out the door 
of the apartment house into the warm 
spring sunlight and descended the 
stairs together to where McNally’s 
mail cart awaited him on the sidewalk. 

“I hope that I’m not going to have 
to schlepp that thing back to you up 
four flights of stairs,” McNally said 
plaintively, and then smiled. 

Newhouse didn’t. “Not this one, 
John,” he said fervently. “Not this 
time. 1 put an awful lot into this one. 
This one is not coming back. 

“This one was not done on specu- 
lation,” Newhouse continued, patting 
the box again as if for reassurance. “It 
was sold up front to my editor, Jean- 
ine Fanning. She’s a very big name in 
my field. Jeanine paid me a three- 
thousand-dollar advance for World 
Enough on the basis of my outline 
and the first ten chapters. When she 
accepts this” — he hefted the beer 
carton, then cradled it — “I’ll get the 
other half of the advance. And in just 
a few months, after this baby has got- 
ten off the bookstore shelves and into 
the hands of the readers, where it 
really counts, why ...” A white smile 
dawned brightly in the forest sur- 
rounding it. “. . . you’ll just get lots of 
chances to deliver those nice, slim, 
light royalty checks — and I'll get to 
quit working as a bouncer in that dis- 
co down on Houston Street.” 

With that, Newhouse lumbered 
off down the block without salute. 


leaving McNally looking after him, 
hoping The Big Guy was not setting 
himself up for a big disappointment. 

M 

I ▼ lelanie Driscoll fidgeted on the 
banquette seat in the fashionable 
L’Homme Fin restaurant. It was 12:45 
and the darkly pretty Ms. Driscoll was 
not accustomed to men being late for 
engagements — particularly not writ- 
ers. She stirred her second Bloody 
Mary and absently flicked the little 
straw from the glass next to its prede- 
cessor on the beige linen tablecloth. 

Where the hell was Newhouse? 

Unconsciously, Melanie slid the 
large manilla envelope on the bench 
seat next to her a little closer. She 
raised the squat red tumbler from the 
table to her lips and sipped, avoiding 
eye contact with the tuxedoed head- 
waiter hovering nearby, hoping, she 
knew, that the companionless lady 
would order soon so he could get a 
second sitting at her table. 

She studied the huge centerpiece 
of bright summer flowers on the cen- 
tral buffet with languid disinterest, as 
if composed. 

Even though the conversation that 
she had to have with Newhouse prom- 
ised to be a little dicey, Melanie had 
been looking forward to seeing the 
gigantic writer. At least everyone in 
the office said he was a giant. For, 
although she was his editor now, Mel- 
anie had never met him. Anyway, it 
was inconceivable, Melanie felt on 


46 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



further consideration, that the guy 
would just not show up. Not a writer. 
Not for a meeting with an editor. 

She surveyed the area around the 
maitre d’s station at the front of the 
restaurant, concentrating on not ap- 
pearing to be doing .so. 

A tall, good-looking, tropical-tan- 
suited man with neatly combed brown 
hair and a small, trim mustache was 
chatting with the maitre d’, who was 
motioning toward her table. 

It can 't be Newhouse, she thought. 
This guy — for he was approaching 
her now, weaving easily among the 
intervening tables — was a hunk — 
not two, the way Newhouse had been 
described to her. 

“Ms. Driscoll?” he asked in a meas- 
ured tenor. She frowned; this was im- 
possible. “I’m Tom Newhouse.” 

The headwaiter scurried over and 
pulled out the chair for him. He sat 
down lightly and smiled up at the 
man. “Club soda with lime, please,” 
he said. Then, facing her, misinter- 
preting her frown: “I’m sorry I’m so 
late.” He placed his palms on his 
thighs and appraised her. “I decided 
to walk up from the Village,” he said, 
“and I guess I just didn’t allow enough 
time. Exercise, you know,” he said, 
now patting his flat stomach with his 
hands. “Good for me. Keeps the blood 
pumping to the old brain on these 
muggy August days.” 

“I don’t get much myself,” Melan- 
ie said, studying him. “Exercise, I 
mean. I should, I know. But some- 


how, with all the work in the office 
during the day, and reading manu- 
scripts in my apartment at night and 
on weekends, somehow I never seem 
to get the chance.” 

A waiter set a glass of ice before 
New'house and upended a miniature 
green bowling-pin-shaped bottle into 
it. 

“Thanks,” Newhouse said. He 
smiled at Melanie. “Did you have to 
wreck a weekend or two reading 
mine at home?” he asked. 

She took a deep breath and plung- 
ed right after him into the purpose of 
their meeting. “No, I worked on yours” — 
she moved her hand to the large en- 
velope beside her — “in the office. A 
lot.” 

She sipped from her Bloody Mary, 
he from his soda. “Actually,” she con- 
tinued, returning the thick red con- 
coction to the table, “Jeanine had al- 
ready done a fair amount of the editing 
on World Enough and Time before 
she left to start work over at Crow- 
ard, MacGann.” 

He watched her, waiting. 

“Actually,” she said, “it was way 
too long.” 

“Was?” 

“Yes, between Jeanine’s stuff and 
mine, your manuscript got so full of 
cross-outs and stcts, of little blue and 
yellow .stickers and marginalia and 
insert sheets, that I took the liberty of 
having it retyped for you in edited 
form.” She handed him the envelope 
from the seat beside her. 


The Orphan 


47 



He took it from her as if it contain- 
ed explosives, gingerly hefting it in 
his hand. He placed it gently in his 
lap. 

“Can’t be more than a couple hun- 
dred pages left of it,” he accused her 
incredulously. “That why we’re in a 
chic French restaurant in Midtown in- 
stead a place like the Beer and Burger 
in the Village, where Jeanine agreed 
to publish my book in the first place?” 
he .said heatedly, his voice rising above 
the muted conversation and click of 
silver on porcelain around them. 

“Look, Tom,” Melanie told him. “1 
know it’s not easy to have your book 
become an orphan. . . .” 

“An orphan?” 

“Yes. When your editor quits a 
publishing house or gets fired or just, 
you know, 'leaves the building,’ your 
manuscript becomes an orphan. No- 
body left in the place knows quite 
what to do with it, or what the origi- 
nal editor saw in it or had in mind for 
it. A lot of people don’t even want to 
be associated with it at all.” 

He nodded. “I see.” 

“But please try to understand that 
it’s not easy to adopt someone else’s 
orphan, cither, no matter how hard 
you try.” 

“Did any of you ever stop to think 
about what you had to do to a parent 
to make an orphan?” 

“I know how much you put into 
your book, Tom. That’s why I’ve done 
the best job I could with it. Under the 
circumstances.” 


The headwaiter flicked open two 
enormous menus and inserted them 
into the conversation. “You could 
have talked to me,” Newhouse said to 
her over the top of his. 

Melanie turned the pages of hers 
intently. “Gee, this is so huge,” she 
said. “Everything looks so good here, 
you don’t know what to have. 1 won- 
der why they don’t try to make the 
selection a little more manageable 
. . . ,” she asked without emerging. 

“Maybe . . . ,” Newhouse said, 
handing his menu to the hovering 
captain, “. . . they left out what didn’t 
need to be in it before they gave it to 
you.” She peered out from behind 
her copy. 

“Spinach salad, lemon juice, no 
bacon,” Newhouse told the captain. 

^ ohn McNally pushed his mail cart 
down the street in front of him, the 
pitted wheels crunching through the 
remaining fallen leaves scattered on 
the uneven gray pavement. 

It was a chilly day early in Novem- 
ber, but the crisp air at least smelled 
vaguely countrified — at least to Mc- 
Nally’s citified nose. 

McNally watched as a tall, skinny 
man in shorts and T-shirt with very 
close-cropped hair trotted up to him, 
stopped, and continued jogging in 
place, perspiration glistening on his 
clean-shaven face below a soggy head- 
band. “Anything for me today, John?” 
The jogger smiled at him. 


48 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



“Sorry, mister,” McNally said rue- 
fully. “1 hate to admit it, but, much as 
1 try. I’m afraid 1 don’t remember 
your address. Must be losing my touch 

“I’m Tom Newhouse, John.” He 
stopped jogging and shook his head. 
“I guess I lost a little weight, you 
know, running and all.” He studied 
McNally. “1 look that different, huh?” 

“Tom, you’ve lost a lot more than 
a little weight,” McNally said, real 
concern in his voice for the man he 
still thought of as The Big Guy. 

“Yeah, 1 also lost that bouncer job 
at the disco down on Houston. ...” 

“And it ain’t from no jogging. You 
sure you been taking good care of 
yourself?” McNally asked. “You know, 
there’s been a lot of nasty stuff going 
around this fall. . . .” 

“I’m just fine, John. Anything from 
the president today?” 

“Yeah. There’s something for you, 
all right,” McNally said, rummaging 
through the large pieces and maga- 
zines in his cart. “Something from 
your publisher.” He selected an inch- 
thick manila envelope and handed it 
to Newhouse. “How’s your project 
with them coming?” McNally concen- 
trated, then remembered. "World 
Enough and Time. Where’s that stand 
now?” he asked. 

“Well, let’s just see,” Newhouse 
replied, tearing open the envelope 
McNally had handed him. He read 
hurriedly, his face clouding over, the 
letter held to his face with his left 


hand, his right holding a thumb-width 
sheaf of papers. 

“A novella!” A soprano wail es- 
caped him as he stamped his foot in 
frustration. “They’ve turned my brain- 
child into a bloody novella,” he keen- 
ed incredulously. “And they’ve chang- 
ed editors on me again. The new one, 
Martin Burnside, says he ‘is anxious 
to include it in the next Spring An- 
thology.’” 

For a long moment, Newhouse 
stood, his hands full of papers thrust 
downward at his sides, head thrown 
back, his eyes squeezed tightly shut 
against the weak November light il- 
luminating his face. 

“You all right, Tom?” McNally ask- 
ed, concern now frankly in his voice. 
Newhouse lowered his head, opened 
his eyes, and looked at the postman, 
who told him, “I’m awful sorry to 
hear that news, Tom. I really am. I 
know how much you put into that 
book of yours.” 

“1 don’t understand. 1 just don’t 
understand. 1 don’t think I’m going to 
be able to take it if they diddle any- 
more with World Enough and Time. ” 

Newhouse walked off down the 
street, muttering to himself, his spin- 
dly legs wobbling above fragile an- 
kles rising from low-cut running 
shoes. 

In the metallic gray light of an 
overcast March day, red and amber 
lights winked alternately atop the dirty 
white and orange St. Vincent’s vehi- 


The Orphan 


49 



cle double-parked outside 387 East 
7th Street. 

AMBULANCE, John McNally read from 
the front of the vehicle as he ap- 
proached it with his cart. Wonder 
who’s sick, he thought as he watched 
a black sedan pull out from behind 
the ambulance and drive off. 

As McNally started up the flight of 
stairs to the front door, it banged op- 
en and a man carrying one end of a 
stretcher backed out toward McNal- 
ly. The postman retraced his steps 
and waited at the bottom. A second 
attendant, a grim-faced woman, 
emerged from the door bearing the 
other end of the stretcher. 

There was no way for McNally to 
tell which attendant carried the head 
of the stretcher and which the foot, 
because the white sheet covering the 
narrow windrow in the middle of the 
stretcher was uniformly strapped 
down from top to bottom: there was 
no opening for a head and shoulders. 

McNally got an uneasy feeling in 
the pit of his stomach. Somebody 
must be dead, he thought to himself. 

“What happened? WTio is it?” Mc- 
Nally asked the attendant as the man 
turned to walk frontward, easily shift- 
ing the weight of the stretcher from 
underhand to overhand as he turned. 
McNally walked along beside the 
stretcher, clutching 387’s mail. 

“Jesus, this guy’s light,” the attend- 
ant remarked, then answered McNal- 
ly: “Guy named Newhouse. Apartment 
4G. He one of your customers?” the 


attendant cocked an eye and asked 
McNally. 

“No!” McNally cried. 

“No? How come? He lived right 
here on your route.” 

“I mean, no, I can’t believe New- 
house is dead. And he was one of my 
‘customers,’ as you say,” the stricken 
McNally said tunelessly, shuffling 
sideways beside the stretcher, look- 
ing down. “Now he’s one of yours,” 
he added in sick wonder. 

“He ain’t one of ours, ” the attend- 
ant protested. “Morgue wagon’s busy 
today. M.E. just asked us to drop this 
one off for him as a favor since we’d 

already been called here by mistake 
>» 

“Used to be a big, strapping, 
healthy guy, too. I wonder what hap- 
pened to him.” 

“I don’t know, buddy. And if he 
was a big guy, you can’t prove it by 
the way he looked when we found 
him, crashed there on the worn-out 
linoleum in the kitchen, phone lying 
beside him off the hook.” They stop- 
ped at the rear of the ambulance, and 
the attendants slid the stretcher in 
through the open door. 

Wordlessly, the woman attendant 
walked around to the driver’s side of 
the ambulance, climbed behind the 
wheel, and slammed the door. The 
man turned to McNally. “She’s up- 
set.” He closed the door on New- 
house. “We don’t get too many stiffs. . 

. .” McNally flinched. The attendant 
regarded him. “Anyway, I ain’t never 


50 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



seen a guy so wasted away to nothing 
but skin and bones. He must’a had 
malnutrition or something. There was 
nothing left of his head except the 
skull. . . .” 

McNally walked away. The ambu- 
lance drove off a few moments later. 

The postman trudged across the 
sidewalk and up the stair to distract- 
edly deliver the mail he had been 
carrying. 

When he had finished slotting the 
day’s quota into its proper boxes, he 
wearily rattled the master door closed 
and locked it with the key he scooped 
up with the bunch from the end of 
his square-linked brass chain. In his 
left hand he held a monarch-sized en- 
velope addressed to T. Wendel New- 
house. 

It was from the late writer’s pub- 
lisher. 

McNally didn’t often break a little 
rule, let alone a major one, but today 
was an exceptional day. He stepped 
through the door to the foot of the 
stairs, tore open the envelope, and 
read. 


Dear Tom, 

I was really worried after our 
phone call today. You just didn 't 
sound right somehow. So / thought 
I’d better ivrite you a note to ex- 
plain. 

I'm sure you know that differ- 
ent editors have different tastes 
and different ways of approaching 
projects. After they’d asked me to 
take over the Spring Anthology 
from Martin, I just didn ’t see how 
your -wondcrfaX short story, "World 
Enough and Time, ” was going to 
fit in with the rest of the pieces Td 
decided to include. 

I’m sorry you were disappoint- 
ed, Tom, and I think you’re going 
to have good success with your 
writing. I think so because there 
are a lot of editors in the business 
now who know how much you put 
into your work. 

Sincerely, 

Mary F. Twillmeyer 
Senior Editor 

McNally shook his head sadly, 
threw Newhouse’s final letter into 
the trash, and walked out of the door 
to finish his round for the day. 



The Orphan 


SI 



Although Richard Paul Russo is new to F & SF, he is not new to 
science fiction. He is a 1983 graduate of the Clarion Writers’ Work- 
shop and has published in Asimov’s and in the anthology THE 
FIELDS OF FIRE. This past year he sold his first novel to TOR 
Books. ‘‘Prayers Of A Rain God” is a tight, taut story of the problems 
a diety faces. 

Prayers of a Rain 
God 


J 


BY 

RICHARD PAUL RUSSO 

anet watched him tremble in the 


moonlight slanting through the win- 
dow. Garrett was dreaming again, the 
same “vision” that now repeated three 
or four times a week. She could tell 
from his constricted face, the sweat 
on his neck, and the abrupt, irregular 
gasps, as if he were short of breath 

They pray to him for rain. 

Disembodied, he hovers above 
them, above the vast expanse of bar- 
ren rock and sand, dirt mounds, a dy- 
ing forest in the distance. The sun is 
fierce, leeching all moisture from the 
air. A few thin plants still grow, spin- 
dly and brittle. A dry riverbed weaves 
through rock and sand, then flows in- 
to what was once an enormous lake. 
Several tiny pools of water remain 
scattered about the riverbed and the 
lake, and the abandoned hulls of sev- 
eral small sailing vessels lie on the 


sloping beach. 

Here, at the mouth of the dry riv- 
er, they have gathered, fifty or sixty in 
number, and they pray to him. 

They are not human, but clearly 
intelligent. Bipedal, lightly furred in 
varying shades of rust, orange, tan — 
one, the tallest, is dark black — they 
stand at the edge of the barren lake 
and raise their faces to him. 

Their eyes are small, recessed, 
their noses long, stiff and narrow. If 
there are ears, they are hidden among 
the tufts of fine fur covering their 
heads. Their narrow mouths open 
and close as they speak to him. Some 
raise their long, gangly arms to the 
sun and sky, fingers outstretched. In 
their gestures, and in their faces, he 
recognizes their supplication to him, 
their god. 

They are dying, his people. They 
whisper and sing at the river mouth. 


52 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



praying to him for rain, and for life. 

Garrett woke in a panic, his throat 
dry and constricted. He gasped for 
breath in the darkness, reached out 
frantically, and tossed the sheet and 
blanket from him. Janet gripped his 
hand and held it to her breast. 

“Garrett,” she whispered. "It’s 
O.K., I’m here.” Her voice soothed 
and eased away the fear. 

He turned, and in the light of the 
moon could see her face, the smooth 
skin, her large eyes gazing at him. She 
released his hand and wiped at the 
sweat on his forehead. 

“Water?” she said. 

Garrett nodded. He swung his legs 
over the side of the bed and sat up. A 
slight tremor went through his hand, 
then faded. He filled the tumbler 
with water from the glass pitcher 
he’d begun to keep on the night- 
stand. Moonlight reflected through 
the clear water, and Garrett quickly 
drained the glass. He refilled it, drank 
down the chilled water, and replaced 
the glass on the nightstand. He was 
still thirsty, but felt bloated and 
queasy. 

Garrett looked out through the 
lace curtains at the nearly full moon. 
He could not shake the feelings of 
dread and responsibility. And guilt. 

“The dream?” Janet asked. 

“No dream,” he answered. The ex- 
change was becoming tense ritual. 
Janet persisted in calling them dreams, 
and he refused to give them that name. 


Garrett pulled open the window and 
let in the cold night air; he still felt 
the heat of the parched world draw- 
ing moisture from him. 

Maybe it was time to go back into 
space. Just a short trip, back to the 
moon, or even a shuttle up to one of 
the stations. Something to give him 
some perspective. He shook his head. 
Perspective on what? People, intelli- 
gent beings, were dying on some 
other world, and a trip to the moon 
wasn’t going to help them. Nothing 
would. Except rain. 

It was early evening, but Garrett 
was already in bed. Janet sat in the 
kitchen, drinking tea. She considered 
fixing a drink, a Jack on the rocks, but 
she really didn’t want one. She turned 
on the small table radio, tuned in to a 
classical station. Something she didn’t 
recognize, as usual, was playing. The 
quiet music was just loud enough so 
she would not hear Garrett snore, or 
toss in the bed. 

Janet wondered if he would have 
the dream again, his vision. She didn’t 
know what to think about it anymore. 
His dreams had driven them apart 
from each other, though they both 
fought to remain close. She felt she 
was fighting a losing battle. 

There had always been a distant 
quality to Garrett, even before they 
were married. Janet had often felt his 
mind was only partially attuned to 
the world around him, that part of his 
thoughts were somewhere else — in 


Prayers of a Rain God 


53 



another room, another city, on some 
other world. It seemed quite appro- 
priate that he had chosen the space 
program for a career, that he had 
striven to become an astronaut. And 
she had not been surprised at his 
success. 

So Garrett had begun to go into 
space, making several trips a year to 
the two stations and the moon, train- 
ing hard and long as plans were made 
to venture to Mars and beyond. Janet 
had little trouble adjusting to his 
long absences; they seemed a natural 
part of Garrett’s makeup. And she 
was busy herself, teaching German at 
State. There was no real distance be- 
tween them, and his trips into space 
had put up no new barriers. 

Then came the second Mars mis- 
sion, which had gone smoothly, a 
huge success. Garrett was a part of it, 
had been gone nearly two years, and 
came back home to her relatively un- 
changed — until the dreams began. 
Now she felt him drifting completely 
away from her, despite their efforts. 
He had become obsessed with his 
visions. 

Janet looked at the wall clock. It 
was nearly eleven. She turned off the 
radio, put her mug in the sink, and 
went into the bedroom. 

Garrett was sleeping peacefully 
on his side, one arm on top of the 
blankets, his head between the two 
pillows. If he was dreaming, it was a 
normal dream. 

She undressed, put on her knee- 


length nightshirt, and crawled into 
bed next to him. She turned onto her 
side, her back to him, and eased 
against his body. In his sleep he moved 
closer so their bodies fit snugly to- 
gether, and put one arm over her that 
she held to her breast, both hands 
clasped around his fingers. As she 
drifted into sleep, she let the silent 
tears drip freely onto the pillow. 

T 

■ he drought continues. The sun 
and the heat remain. 

The people below him, these intel- 
ligent, furred beings, move slowly 
about their village near the dry river- 
bed. He can now distinguish males 
from females, though the differences 
were not immediately obvious. 

Their dwellings are made of wood 
and stone, small rectangular struc- 
tures built against rock mounds or 
small hillocks. Several large cooking 
pits are spaced regularly among the 
buildings. Most of the cooking pits 
seem to be abandoned. 

The distant forest is now a skele- 
tal maze of thin dried trunks and 
branches without leaves. Occasional- 
ly a small, light-skinned animal scur- 
ries over the ground, hurrying from 
shelter to shelter. Scattered about in 
all directions are the skeletons of 
larger animals, the bones clean and 
bleached; no carcasses remain, no 
shred of meat or skin on any of them. 

A few of his people wander in the 
riverbed, searching for food or small 


54 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



pools of water. One male, the single 
black-furred being, searches farther 
upstream, and periodically pokes a 
long digit into the dry bed, feeling for 
moisture. 

Toward noon most activity ceases. 
All members of the village gather le- 
thargically at the riverbed, then am- 
ble slowly toward the lake. As they 
walk, many of them ruffle the fur 
around their necks and under their 
arms, an apparent attempt to keep 
cool. 

At the lake’s edge they form pat- 
terns, all facing the dry lake bed. The 
younger ones form a double row in 
front, each an arm’s length from those 
on either side. The adults then form 
two half circles behind them, the 
black-furred one in the center of the 
back row. 

A chant begins from the children 
and is taken up by the adults. The 
dark one reaches up to the sky, reach- 
es up to his god and howls, his voice 
cracked and anguished. Several oth- 
ers raise their arms, and the prayer 
increases in intensity. 

/ want to bring you rain, Garrett 
thinks. / am trying. 

But he knows they do not hear his 
thoughts, and he feels helpless. What 
good is a god who can do nothing for 
his people? Of what use is a god who 
lets his people die? 

He and Janet walked through the 
eastern end of Golden Gate Park on a 
Monday afternoon. Overhead, dark 


clouds rolled past, threatening rain. 
Garrett and Janet were dressed warm- 
ly, in coats, scarves, and boots. In the 
nearly deserted Children’s Play- 
ground, they sat on a bench facing 
the main play area. Two boys, about 
seven or eight years old and bundled 
up in parkas and mittens, moved un- 
steadily across a bridge of chains and 
tires while a woman stood nearby, 
watching and smoking a cigarette. 

“You need to do something,’’ Janet 
said. “It’s getting worse, not better. 
You don’t sleep enough at night any- 
more, you’re always tired. All right, 
for now it’s O.K., but when your leave 
is over, and you have to go back. . . .’’ 
She stopped and shrugged. “It’s not 
doing a hell of a lot for our relation- 
ship, either.” 

Garrett closed his eyes and leaned 
his head back. He tried to will the 
clouds overhead to open, release a 
downpour, or at least a drizzle. No 
water fell. 

“I know they seem like dreams to 
you,” he said. He felt for her and put 
his hand on her knee. “I’d probably 
think that’s all they were, except. . . .” 
He opened his eyes, sat up, and looked 
at her. “There’s too damn much logic 
to them. And a regular pattern. If they 
were simply repetitive, but they aren’t. 
The drought goes on, everything is 
drying out, getting worse. Each 
‘dream’ is a slight progression from 
the previous, and they never go back. 
I can’t believe dreams could do this 
over such a long period of time.” 


Pnyers of a Rain Cod 


5S 



Janet pushed both hands into her 
coat pockets. “What else could they 
be? Visions? A door into another real- 
ity? Telepathic contact with another 
world? Jesus, Garrett, we’ve been 
through all this before, and none of it 
makes any sense. Every idea sounds 
absurd.” 

He stood and began to pace back 
and forth in front of the bench. Sever- 
al times he started to speak, but 
couldn’t. Finally he breathed in deep- 
ly and stopped pacing. 

“Look, something I haven’t told 
you. The first time it happened, the 
first time I had this . . . ‘vision,’ what- 
ever you want to call it, 1 was not 
asleep. I was awake, and 1 wasn’t 
dreaming.” He paused, but she re- 
mained silent, waiting. “1 was not ev- 
en here on Earth.” He started to pace 
again. 

“It was just after we’d burned out 
of orbit from Mars. I was awake, we 
were all awake. Suddenly 1 was . . . 
there. On this strange world, above 
the world, looking down on drying 
streams that had obviously once been 
rivers, on a pond that had once been 
a large lake, on a dying forest. Look- 
ing down on a dying race of intelli- 
gent beings. It went on a long time 
—hours, it .seemed, as I watched these 
alien creatures moving through their 
world, trying to survive. And when it 
ended, and I was ‘back’ in the .ship, no 
one had noticed a thing. Practically 
no time had passed. I hadn’t gone in- 
to any kind of trance, and 1 sure hadn’t 


been asleep to dream.” 

He stood watching the two boys, 
who had stopped playing on the 
bridge and were wrestling in the sand. 
It began to rain lightly, and the wo- 
man called to the boys. They ran over 
to her, and the three of them hurried 
away. 

“You didn’t tell anyone, did you?” 

Garrett shook his head. He found 
it difficult to turn around and look 
directly at her, but he managed it. A 
few strands of hair were wet and 
pressed against her face. Her face was 
so clean and smooth, and her eyes 
were so large and open. Water drip- 
ped from her hair. 

“The craziest thing,” he began. 
“The hardest thing, the most absurd 
part of all this is that they were pray- 
ing. They were praying to me, their 
god.” He looked down at his open 
hands, then back at her. “I am their 
god.” 

Garrett stood in the rain watching 
Janet, waiting for her to respond. Af- 
ter several minutes she stood, put her 
arm through his, and pressed tightly. 

“Let’s go home,” she said. 

They had not spoken for hours. 
After coming in from the rain, and 
.showering separately, Janet had fixed 
up a fire while Garrett worked on 
dinner. She sat in front of the fire 
with a Heinrich Bdll novel and sipped 
at a Jack Daniels. The flames drew 
her gaze, and she .spent more time 
staring at them than reading. 


56 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



She didn’t know what to think 
about Garrett. He was not an irration- 
al man. He was not given to mysti- 
cism, or astrology, or beliefs in para- 
normal powers, dreams that foretold 
the future, or anything like that If 
anything, he was a skeptic, in the true 
sense of the word. He questioned ev- 
erything, always with an open mind 
but needing to be logically convinced. 
Garrett just did not take anything on 
faith. 

And yet, it was clear he believed 
what he had said. Believed it deeply, 
so that it caused him pain. 

Garrett came into the front room 
and sat in the chair closest to Janet. 
She put the book aside and looked at 
him. 

“I made a casserole,” he said. 
“Should be ready in about an hour.” 
He breathed deeply once. “Janet, do 
you think . . . we’ve never discussed 
one explanation. We’ve discreetly 
avoided it,” he said, smiling. “But do 
you think I’ve lost touch with reality? 
That I’ve lost my sanity?” 

“Do you believe that?” 

“No.” The answer was firm and 
sure. 

“I don’t think so either,” Janet 
said. “But it is a possibility, and has to 
be considered.” 

He nodded, and they were silent 
for a long time. Janet sipped at her 
drink, and finished it while Garrett 
stared into the dying fire. He got up 
from the chair and added a log. 

“A god?” she said. 


Garrett shrugged. “I know how it 
sounds. But I am a . . . presence above 
them, and they are praying to me.” 
He stood and turned to her. “1 know 
it, Janet, deep in my gut. There is no 
doubt in me. I may not be helping 
them, but they are praying to me, and 
I am their god.” 

Janet slowly shook her head. 
“You’re a human being, Garrett; you 
don’t have any special powers. Isn’t it 
more likely that you have made some 
kind of contact, and are just observ- 
ing this world?” 

He looked away and into the fire. 
“You think I want to be a god? You 
think I have a choice?” 

The silence returned. Janet shook 
her head slowly, watching him. “You 
are not a god,” she said. 

F 

■ or the first time, it is night. 

He can barely distinguish the out- 
lines of the village dwellings below. 
In the dim moonlight it appears that 
most of the villagers are asleep. 

A huge fire burns in the riverbed. 
Tending the fire is the tall, black- 
furred being. He is placing the ends 
of long pieces of wood into the fire, 
forming a circle of the pieces around 
the edge. The ends seem to be coated 
with something flammable, for as each 
one is placed into the fire, a small 
burst of flame and sparks erupts from 
it. Fifty or sixty of these lengths of 
wood ring the fire. 

The dark one picks up one of the 


Prayers of a Rain Cod 


57 



lengths, a torch now with one end 
burning brightly, and walks along the 
riverbed, downstream twenty paces. 
He plants the torch in the dry earth. 
The torch burns steadily, flames toss- 
ing slightly in a breeze. He returns to 
the fire, picks up another piece, and 
carries it farther downstream, where 
he plants it as far from the first as the 
first is from the fire. 

The next time, he picks up two 
torches and plants them still farther 
downstream, one at a time, equally 
spaced. 

The lone figure continues the pro- 
cedure, carrying two torches at a 
time, hiking farther downstream with 
each trip to plant them. From above, 
it seems the course of the river is be- 
ing slowly charted by fire, a long, 
curving string of equidistant torches 
making the way. 

Eventually the course of the riv- 
erbed is traced by fire all the way to 
the dry lake. Once the concluding 
torch is planted, the black-furred be- 
ing returns to the fire, picks up as 
many of the torches as he can safely 
carry, then bears them to the edge of 
the lake. He plants them carefully in a 
small circle at the end of the line of 
torches. 

All the torches continue to bum 
without signs of fading. The lone, 
dark figure paces about the circle of 
fire at the lake’s edge, weaving from 
side to side. After a time he steps in- 
side the circle, raises arms and face 
to the sky, and howls. When there is 


no answer, he hangs his head, then 
suddenly drops to a kneeling position 
above a dark patch of earth within 
the flames and sticks a finger, then 
his entire hand, into the ground. 
Wearily, he shakes his head from side 
to side, then plunges his face and 
mouth to the ground. He buries his 
face deeper, deeper, then abruptly 
pulls free and stares up at the night 
sky. His mouth, nose, and tiny eyes 
arc covered with dry, dry sand. 

The dark one rises slowly to his 
feet, holds out two open palms, then 
violently spits into the sand at his 
feet. 

Garrett woke coughing, unable to 
breathe. He pushed himself up into a 
sitting position, his mouth and throat 
dry and gritty. He gasped for air, and 
felt Janet reach for him as he contin- 
ued to cough. After a minute or two, 
the coughing subsided, and he breath- 
ed easier. Garrett wiped his mouth 
and felt sand on his fingers. 

He looked down at his hand, then 
felt the inside of his mouth with his 
tongue. More sand. He turned and 
saw flecks of sand on his pillow, the 
sheet. He held out his hand to Janet, 
thrusting it at her. 

“Sand! Tell me this isn’t real! I’ve 
got sand in my mouth, down my 
throat, and where the hell did it all 
come from? From a godforsaken 
world, that’s where!” He pounded his 
hand on the pillow and turned from 
her to pick up the water pitcher. He 


58 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



started to fill his glass, then stopped 
and stared at the pitcher, at the clear, 
bright water. Rage and frustration 
swelled inside him, pressuring for re- 
lease, and for the first time in his life 
he was afraid he would take it out on 
Janet. He swung the pitcher back, 
then heaved it violently against the 
far wall. The glass shattered, and wa- 
ter sprayed over the wall and floor. 
Garrett buried his head in his hands 
and sat on the edge of the bed for a 
long time, pressing his palms as hard 
as possible against his skull. 

Garrett had almost completely step- 
ped talking to her. She had tried to 
offer another explanation for the sand 
— that they were near the park and 
sandy ground — but he would not 
listen. He spent most of the days out 
walking, though Janet did not know 
where he went. He napped in the af- 
ternoons, went to bed quite early, 
and slept late. He stopped fixing 
meals, so Janet took over the cook- 
ing, though neither of them ate much 
any longer. Garrett had the dreams 
every time he slept now, and she felt 
he was trying to remain permanently 
asleep, in a constant state of dreaming. 

She nearly moved out twice, cer- 
tain she could not take it any longer, 
but had been unable to leave him 
alone. Now she simply waited for it 
to stop, or for Garrett to deteriorate 
to a point where he would need to be 
committed somewhere for care. 

When, one day, he did talk to her 


at length, she was taken by surprise. 

Garrett had built up a fire himself, 
then asked her to come into the front 
room so he could talk to her. His 
tone and manner seemed rational, as 
if nothing odd were happening to 
him. 

“First,” he began, “I want to apolo- 
gize. I can imagine what you’ve been 
through, and you don’t deserve it. 
But I can’t do anything about it. I’m 
not going to try to convince you that 
anything’s going to change. Nothing 
will. If anything, this is all going to 
get worse.” 

“Do you know of something that’s 
going to happen?” 

Garrett shook his head. “No. You 
probably won’t understand, but 1 
wouldn’t end this now even if I could. 
Not in the way you’re thinking. I ... 1 
feel responsible. Responsible for lives. 
They are dying because of me.” 

Janet closed her eyes and shook 
her head. She did not want to go into 
that anymore. 

“All right,” Garrett said. “I’ll let 
that part of it be. But there is one 
thing I need to say. Something I need 
you to promise me.” 

Janet opened her eyes and looked 
at him. “Go ahead.” 

“If anything happens to me, and I 
end up in a hospital on life-support 
machines, or something like that, well, 
I know we’ve talked about this be- 
fore, and we both felt we didn’t want 
to be kept alive by machines, not in 
the long run. That if one of us were in 


Prayers of a Rain Cod 


59 



that position, we would want the 
other to have the doctors disconnect 
the life-support systems.” 

“What’s going to happen, Garrett?” 

“I don’t know, I told you. But if 
something does, 1 want you to prom- 
ise me you won ’t have them discon- 
nect the life-support. I want to be 
kept alive. 1 have to be kept alive.” 

“Garrett, tell me what’s going to 
happen.” 

“Promise me, Janet.” 

“Garrett. . . .” 

“Janet.” 

They lapsed into silence. After a 
long time, Janet nodded to him. Yes, 
she said silently. I promise. 

The promise received, Garrett 
stood and went into the bedroom. 
Janet sat watching the fire, drained 
and empty, certain now that she had 
finally lost him. 

H e has done it. 

Almost. 

High white clouds move serenely 
across the sky, and the furred beings 
stagger out from their dwellings to 
stare up at the clouds. In shock, in 
awe, they lope down to the riverbed, 
stand in the middle, and face up- 
stream as if expecting water to appear. 

The black-furred one remains 
aloof, staring up at the sky. There is 
no rain, no hint of moisture; Garrett 
has not managed that yet, and the sol- 
itary figure below him seems to rec- 
ognize that. 


Soon, Garrett thinks. / promise. 

It is almost as if the dark one hears 
him, and does not believe, for once 
again he turns his head to the side 
and fiercely spits precious water to 
the ground before turning away from 
the sky and clouds to return to the 
village. 

The contacts ceased. 

Garrett went into a low-key, bare- 
ly contained panic. He had been gain- 
ing control over his sleep, more each 
day so he was able to move at will in 
and out of the dream state that 
brought him to his world. He was ev- 
en gaining control of the world itself, 
enough to create clouds, and before 
long he would bring rain; he was cer- 
tain of it. But now. . . . 

He had planned to will himself in- 
to a permanent, comalike state, so 
he’d remain in constant contact with 
his world. Then he could fully be- 
come their god and save them. But if 
he could not get back, he could not 
bring them rain. They would die. He 
had to do something, and it had to be 
soon. 

But what had happened? What was 
wrong? 

There were no answers. 

Once again, Janet nearly moved 
out. 

Garrett’s dreams had stopped, and 
for a few days she had hoped every- 
thing would return to normal, but in- 
stead the situation worsened. Now 


60 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



Garrett had trouble getting to sleep 
for even hour at a time. He started 
drinking more heavily, and while the 
drinking often put him to sleep, the 
sleep did not bring the dreams he 
wanted. The Seconals prescribed for 
him were no better. So he spent most 
of the days half drunk, trying to sleep, 
occasionally jogging or running to 
tire himself out. Nothing worked. 

But Janet stayed. She stayed, and 
she kept the house together, cooked 
and made sure he ate, and held him 
when he burst into tears of frustra- 
tion, mumbling about the deaths he 
was causing. Janet became convinced 
Garrett had finally lost touch with 
reality, but still she could not bring 
herself to have him carted away like 
.some helpless animal. 

Then one day he stopped drinking 
and stopped taking the sleeping pills. 
He still spoke only infrequently to 
her, but he started eating more regu- 
larly, began to exercise, and stopped 
trying to sleep all day. Both physically 
and mentally, Garrett .seemed to be 
pulling himself together, and when 
he had his first full night’s undisturb- 
ed sleep in weeks, Janet began to 
think their ordeal was over. 

Then the dream returned. 

They are dying. 

One of the young ones is discov- 
ered dead beside a pile of rock, and 
the villagers gather around her. There 
is a hesitancy before acting, as if they 
are giving the young female a mo- 


ment of mourning. The black-furred 
one whispers a few words, makes 
several motions in the air with his 
hands, then takes a knife and pro- 
ceeds to cut into the dead youth. 
Two others hold bowls as the blood 
is drained, the precious liquid saved. 
When all the blood has been drained, 
the dark one begins to skin and carve 
the flesh. 

Garrett wants to stop looking, to 
turn away so he does not have to 
watch. But he cannot, because he is 
their god, and a god sees all. 

A fire has been built in the nearest 
cooking pit, and a large grill has been 
set up over it. The villagers crowd 
around the fire. Smoke rises from the 
grill as the meat is placed upon it. 

Not once have any of his people 
looked up to him in either prayer or 
anger; it is as if he no longer exists. 
There are no clouds in the sky, no 
traces of moisture in the air. Garrett 
feels worthless again, an abandoned, 
impotent god. 

T 

■ here was only once chance to 
save his people. 

Garrett had no time to regain con- 
trol over his sleep and dream states. 
It would take weeks, and they would 
all be dead by then. 

He fingered one of the Seconal 
capsules spread out on the nightstand. 
He put it in his mouth, drank some 
water, and swallowed the capsule. 
Garrett swallowed another, then sat 


Prayers of a Rain God 


61 



without moving for several minutes. 

He had worked it out as closely as 
had been possible. The amount of 
Seconal he would take should put 
him deeply into a coma, but as long 
as Janet acted quickly, it shouldn’t 
kill him. Once in a coma, Garrett felt 
certain that, at a subconscious level, 
he would be able to maintain the 
state. As long as he was hooked up to 
a life-support system, he would be 
fine. 

Garrett swallowed more of the 
Seconals. He waited again, looking 
out the window at the dim light of 
the hidden quarter moon. 

Janet. That was what hurt most, 
what he had done to her, and what 
she still had to go through. In the 
past few weeks, he had thought too 
little of her, had taken her for granted 
in many ways. If it could have been 
different . . . but he knew he did not 
have a choice. She was strong, and 
she would survive. But this was the 
only chance his people had to survive. 

Garrett took the remaining Seco- 
nals and finished off the water. He set 
the alarm clock and put the letter se- 
curely atop it. The letter was for 
Janet. It told her what he had done, 
what she had to do, and reminded 
her of her promise. 

He was beginning to feel drowsy, 
but that might be just his state of 
mind rather than the Seconal. Garrett 
lay back on the bed and stared up at 
the ceiling. The room was cold, and 
he wrapped himself in an afghan. 


Eventually his entire body began 
to feel heavy, as though he were sink- 
ing into the bed. He did not fight it, 
did not try to move, or stay awake. It 
would be soon. 

He would bring rain to his people. 
Garrett felt quite certain of that now, 
and he welcomed the heavy drifting 
into sleep. He would bring rain, and 
he would save their lives. 

It is nearly dawn. Janet sat in 
the chair at the foot of the hospital 
bed, very much awake though she 
had not slept all night. The lights on 
the wall monitors moved silently in 
regular patterns — blue, green, white. 
There were no red warning lights, no 
.sounds indicating danger. 

Garrett’s face looked relaxed, 
though occasionally it twisted as if he 
were in anguish. She could not tell if 
he was dreaming. 

She still did not believe he had 
been in contact with another world, 
but she hoped that, at least in his own 
mind, he had succeeded in getting 
there. And she would keep her prom- 
ise to him, would never let them dis- 
connect the life-support systems as 
lung as she had a choice. 

She had adjusted to the distant 
quality about him when they had first 
met; later she had adjusted to his 
long absences during his space mis- 
sions and training sessions; and now 
she would adjust to this as well, no 
matter how long it went on. 

When the sun made its first appear- 


62 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



ance in the window, Janet rose from 
the chair and left to return home to 
sleep. 

They are praying to him again. 

They are praying for the rain to 
stop. 

it has rained for twenty-three days 
now, never letting up day or night. 
The river is swollen, flooding period- 
ically, the lake is already above its full 
level and still rising. The village has 
been washed away, and many of the 
villagers with it. Those who survive 
have moved away from the river and 
into the dead forest. 

But the forest, too, is flooding, 
and there is no solid earth on which 
to settle or build. The black-furred 
being is leading them all on a long 
trek towards higher land, but the 
nearest mountains are weeks away. It 


seems extremely unlikely that, unless 
the rain stops, any of them will sur- 
vive to reach even the foothills. 

Three times each day the dark one 
halts the march and leads the villag- 
ers in prayer. Garrett knows their 
prayers are useless. He has lost all 
control, if he ever really had any. 
Janet was right. He is not a god. 

He watches helplessly as his peo- 
ple die, as they pray in vain to him. 
They push on through earth that has 
become swamp, through newly form- 
ed lakes and rivers and uprooted trees. 
And each time they pray to him, Gar- 
rett prays as well, prays to any god 
who can hear him; prays he will die 
so that his people will live. 

The rains continue to pour from 
the darkened sky. 

With thanks to B.G. 



Coming soon 

Next month: Robert F. Young’s last story, a gripping SF adven- 
ture, “The Giant, The Colleen, and the Tw6nty-one Cows.” “Out 
of the Cradle” by Mary Caraker, science fiction from a fresh, and 
remarkably good, new voice. 

Soon: new stories from Charles Sheffield, Nancy Kress, John 
Kessel, Kate Wilhelm, Keith Roberts, Nancy Springer, Ben Bova 

and many others. Use the coupon on page 30 or watch for the 
June issue, on sale April 30. 


Prayers of a Rain Cod 


63 



In which Reg Bretnor’s Papa Schimmelhorn makes his first ap- 
pearance here since “Papa Schimmelhorn’s Yang” (March 1978). 
You’ll recall that the huge, white-bearded genius is something of 
a ladies man, who is here driven to get to know an attractive 
new neighbor, even if rumor has it that she is a witch. 


Nobelist 

Schimmelhorn 


H 


BY 

REGINALD BRETNOR 


ad Papa Schimmelhorn not 
fallen into such deep disgrace, the 
most traumatic episode in his long 
and largely misspent life might never 
have occurred. Almost certainly, he 
would have reacted to Little Anton’s 
outrageous proposal, not as a compli- 
ment to his genius, but as an insult to 
his mature masculinity and sexual 
prowess. However, he was in disgrace 

— with Mama Schimmelhorn, though 
that had been pretty much par for the 
course throughout their more than 
six decades of married life, but also 
with (a) his employer, Heinrich I.ue- 
desing, whose patience had been tried 
to the breaking point by the intermi- 
nable complaints of angry hu.sbands, 
jealous lovers, and protective parents 

— something scarcely conducive to 
the smooth running of the Luedesing 
Cuckoo Clock Factory, where he had 
for many years been foreman; (b) 


Pastor Hundhammer and his wife, 
who had again caught him in the 
choir loft with Ms. Dora Grossapfel, 
whose well-filled stretch pants were 
so readily removable; and (c) Mama 
Schimmelhorn’s bosom friend Mrs. 
Laubenschneider, who vas Pennsyl- 
vania Deutsch und an expert on vitch- 
es und shpells und hexes, and who 
had done her best to warn him against 
a Ms. Morva Poldragon, who had re- 
cently moved in a few houses down 
the street, and whom he had been 
unable to get off his mind from the 
moment of her arrival. Unimpressed 
by his great stature, huge white beard, 
and enormous muscles, she had dis- 
played only annoyance at his efforts 
to gain her attention. 

Mrs. Laubenschneider had in- 
formed him solemnly that Ms. Pol- 
dragon was not just a witch, but a 
most dangerous witch, whose mama 


64 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



was descended from a long line of 
notorious witches in Salem, Massa- 
chusetts, and whose father was from 
Cornwall, which — as everybody 
knew — was full of witches. 

Papa Schimmelhorn, mentally un- 
dressing the subject of their conver- 
sation, listened with only half an ear. 
His mind’s eye showed him a lady 
very different from the usual run of 
his pretty pussycats, for Morva Pol- 
dragon was tall and dark and svelte, 
looking indeed like a nicely fleshed- 
out and sun-ripened Vampira. The 
idea of her being a witch and a malef- 
ic one struck him as utterly absurd, 
and he said as much. 

“Dot iss shtupid!” he declared. 
“Vitcjes are nodt young und predty. 
They are old bags vith broomshticks! 
Eferybody knows. Also, a vitch vould 
nodt vork ind der French restaurant 
of old Mme. Gargousse, nicht wahrY' 

Insulted, Mrs. Laubenschneider 
ruffled her feathers and replied that 
witches also had to eat, that they 
sometimes kept a low profile for their 
own dark reasons, and whereas she 
had been trying to spare poor Mama 
tidings of his misbehavior, now she 
would have to reveal all. Then she 
turned on her heel, gathered her 
skirts, and stormed off to keep her 
tea date with Mama and Mrs. Hund- 
hammer. The tongue-lashing he re- 
ceived on Mama’s return was a rec- 
ord breaker, punctuated as always by 
jabs from the sharp point of her black 
umbrella, and only when she broke 


to use the bathroom was he able to 
escape. 

It was not in his nature, when in 
disgrace with fortune and men’s (and 
women’s) eyes, to all alone beweep 
his outcast state. Instead, he always 
sought refuge in his basement work- 
shop, among a miscellany of ingenious 
cuckoo clocks of his own contrivance 
(many of them X-rated), and to un- 
bosom himself to his old striped tom- 
cat Gustav-Adolf, who, on this occa- 
sion, was dining comfortably on a fat 
vole he had caught an hour or so 
previously. 

“Ach, Gustav-Adolf,” he said, shak- 
ing his head dismally. “It iss a trac- 
hedy, die old vomen like Mama und 
Frau Laubenschneider. Zo O.K., Frau 
Laubenschneider makes you a fine 
collar for die fleas, vith all die hex 
signs. But shtill she does nodt under- 
shtand us men, und how, to keep full 
mit vinegar, ve must chase predty lid- 
tie pussycats.” 

"Mrrow-ow! commented Gustav- 
Adolf, which, translated from the Cat, 
meant, “Like fun she doesn’tP' He 
took another bite of vole, found it es- 
pecially succulent, and purred thun- 
derously. 

“Jar Papa Schimmelhorn went on. 
“Die old vomen cannodt undershtand 
how lidtie Morva makes me feel. Gus- 
tav-Adolf, you should only see!” Lov- 
ingly, his big hands outline first 
breasts, then bottom, in the air. “You 
cannodt imachine! She iss chust 
like—” 


Nobelist Schimmelhorn 


65 



But before he could tell his friend 
what Ms. Morva was really like, there 
was a soft knock on the basement 
door. 

His heart leaped. Could it be? Had 
she finally realized what she was 
missing and come seeking him? 

He was at the door in nothing flat. 
He threw it open. Little Anton Fleder- 
maus, his grandnephew, was standing 
there. In the street behind him stt)od 
an imperial yellow Rolls-Royce with 
Hong Kong license plates and a liver- 
ied Chinese chauffeur, for Little An- 
ton had come a long way since Papa 
Schimmelhom, a few years previously, 
had fetched him as a dowdy, pimpled 
teenager from Ellis Island, where he 
had just arrived from Switzerland. 
Now, as head of Special Services for 
Pfing-Plantagenet, the world’s great- 
est conglomerate, he sported a Savile 
Row suit, an old school tie (courtesy 
of Horace P6ng and Richard Plan- 
tagenet, both of whom were entitled 
to wear one), and a carefully nur- 
tured English accent. 

For a moment. Papa Schimmelhom’s 
face mirrored his disjqjpointment. 

Little Anton smiled. “Ah, dear 
Great-uncle, you don’t seem awfully 
glad to see me. Let me guess — could 
you possibly have been exf>ecting a 
lovely lady?’’ 

Papa Schimmelhom heaved a 
mighty sigh. “Come in, Lidtle Anton, 
come in. Or course I am glad to see 
you, alvays. It iss chust — veil, I haflf 
troubles.” 


“I know,” replied his grand- 
nephew. “I’ve been upstairs with Ma- 
ma for the past hour. She just left. She 
told me everything — well, almost 
everything.” 

Closing the door. Papa Schimmel- 
horn led him past his 1922 Stanley 
Steamer touring car (painted British 
Racing Green) into the workshop 
proper. “Und now,” he said, pulling 
out two rickety cane-bottomed chairs, 
“you sit. I tell der rest.” 

For the next ten minutes, he dis- 
coursed eloquently on Morva Poldrag- 
on’s charms — on those obvious to 
all and those even more important 
ones that, presumably, would be re- 
vealed only in her bed. “You vould 
nodt beliefe!” he exclaimed. “Tvice 
in der efening, for vun second maybe, 
I haff seen her eyes — mein Gotti I 
think in der dark they shine! Red, Lid- 
tle Anton, like der Siameser cat! Can 
you imachine? In der night, aftervard, 
on der pillow next to you? How ro- 
mantic!” 

Little Anton suppressed the urge 
to say to him, Ms. Morva sounded 
downright creepy. “Surely,” he said, 
“you’re joking?” 

Papa Schimmelhom assured him 
that he was not, and then proceeded 
to recount the simple campaign he 
had so far pursued. She vas, he de- 
clared, playing hard to get. Tvice she 
had ordered him to — how do you 
say — bug off. But he was in no way 
discouraged. Maybe she had been talk- 
ing to Mrs. Luedesing, Oder Mrs. 


66 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



Hundhammer, maybe efen Mama. 
“Die old vomen! Lidtle Anton, they 
think she iss a vitch — such nonzense! 
A vitch vith degres from die Univer- 
sitat! Maybe in chenetics. She vorks 
for Mme. Gargousse at der Frencher 
restaurant vith all die frogs.” 

“You mean La Grenouille d’Or?' 

"Ja, jar 

“My word! It’s absolutely famous 
for its frogs’ legs. We’ve even heard of 
it in Hong Kong. It’s mentioned in 
the Guide Michelin — they said they 
wished it were in France. Doesn’t she 
raise all the frogs herself? That’s prob- 
ably why she hired your little Morva, 
to breed even better ones. I must 
take you and Mama there while I’m in 
New Haven.” 

“You are shmart. Lidtle Anton. 
Probably dot iss vhy my Morva vorks 
there. Such fine frogs — often now 
Gustav-Adolf goes to der pond to 
hunt.” 

"Mmmrow!" rumbled Gustav- 
Adolf. 

Little Anton patted him on the 
head. "Le chat gourmet," he com- 
mented approvingly. 

On the wall, one of the larger 
cuckoo clocks suddenly popped its 
doors to exhibit three lusty cuckoos 
celebrating the erotic antics of a satyT 
and two plump nymphs, and to inform 
the world that it was four o’clock. 

The performance appeared to 
cheer Papa Schimmelhorn, and Little 
Anton decided to strike while the iron 
was, if not hot, at least warming up. 


“Forget your troubles, revered 
Great-uncle,” he said. “I have a prop- 
osition for you — and it’s not just me 
but Pdng-Plantagenet — though it 
was my idea. We can all, as you Amer- 
icans put it, make a bundle.” 

Papa Schimmelhorn shook his 
head. “I do nodt vant to make a bun- 
dle, Lidtle Anton, I haff mein goot 
chob vith Heinrich Luedesing — soon 
he forgets und I get it back — und ve 
haff plenty of money in der bank, efen 
in Schvitzerland.” 

Little Anton’s frank and open fea- 
tures — features that so deluded 
Mama Schimmelhorn — betrayed 
none of tbe cunning that had enabled 
bim to secure his position with P6ng- 
Plantagenet and thrive in it. 

He leaned forward. He tapped Pa- 
pa Schimmelhorn’s knee confidential- 
ly. “I know that you aren’t broke,” he 
said, “but, my dear Papa, can you get 
at that money without Mama know- 
ing?” 

Papa Schimmelhorn was forced to 
shake his head. “Maybe if it iss fife 
dollars only,” he said. 

“Very well. If you accept my prop- 
osition — owr proposition, P6ng-Plan- 
tagenet’ll see you’re paid in cash, in 
hundred-dollar bills, lots of them. 
They can go a long way with pretty 
pussycats — even pretty pussycats 
loaded with degrees. Just suppose 
you could treat her to more money in 
a week than she makes at the froggery 
in a year?” 

Papa Schimmelhorn frowned. He 


Nobelbt Schimmelhorn 


67 



thought of his innumerable amatory 
successes. “All my life, Lidtle Anton," 
he replied huffily, “I never haff to pay 
for it — not vunce!” 

“Come, come!” his grandnephew 
answered. “Don’t look at it this way. 
All you’ll be doing is helping her to 
overcome her — what shall we call 
it? — her maiden modesty.” 

“Dot iss possible,” Papa Schim- 
melhom acknowledged, a little grudg- 
ingly. 

“Very well, then.” Little Anton 
lowered his voice conspiratorially. 
“Listen! Here’s the deal! You’ve heard 
about those Nobel Prize winners, 
haven’t you? How they’ve been con- 
tributing to sperm banks so the world 
can have more geniuses? Of course 
you have. 'Well, ask yourself one ques- 
tion — What have all those Nobel 
Prize winners ever done? What have 
they done that compares to your in- 
vention of a time machine? To your 
making a. gnurr-pfeife to bring gnurrs 
from the voodvork oudt — creatures 
from another dimension? To.how you 
turned lead into gold? How many of 
them could’ve done it?” 

“Nodt vun, I think,” said Papa 
Schlmmelhorn modestly, “but remem- 
ber, Lidtle Anton, I haff nodt vun a 
Nobel Prize, und I am a chenius only 
in der subconscience, chust as Herr 
Doktor Jung said. Odervise I am 
shtupid. Die shperm bankers vould 
nefer take mein deposit.” 

“Of course they wouldn’t, sage 
Great-uncle. It’d be like letting a fox 


into the henhouse. All those Nobel 
laureates wouldn’t be able to com- 
pete. That’s why we’re going to have 
to open your private sperm bank — 
you and you alone. But don’t worry 
— Pfeng-Plantagenet’ll take care of all 
the merchandising. My word, we’ll 
have rich, ambitious women lined up 
from here to Taipei!” 

All the implications of the pro- 
posal were beginning to percolate 
lingering visions of Ms. Morva. “You 
mean I vill haff to become a Shviss 
shperm banker all by meinself?” Papa 
Schimmelhom muttered slowly. 

Little Anton’s small blue eyes 
twinkled greedily. “You hit the nail 
on the head. Papa!” he replied. “Think 
about it. Nothing could be simpler!” 

“All by meinself?” Papa Schimmel- 
horn repeated. “I do it by meinself?” 
He sat back in his chair, glaring fero- 
ciously. “Ach, Lidtle Anton, you 
should be ashamed! Nefer! Nodt since 
I am tvelve years old!” 

“Papa! Papa!” pleaded Little Anton. 
“You owe it to the world. If all those 
Nobel Prize winners can do it, why 
can’t you?” 

“Donnerwetter! They are old men 
vith no more vinegar, so they cannodt 
chase anymore die pussycats. For 
them iss different. For me, Lidtle An- 
ton, neferr 

Little Anton was not dismayed. 
Quietly, he played what he hoped 
would be his ace in the hole. “But 
surely you wouldn’t have to manage 
all by yourself, would you, Great- 


68 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



uncle? You, of all people, ought to be 
able to find one or two young ladies 
to — shall we say, give you a helping 
hand?” 

Papa Schimmelhorn wrinkled his 
nose disgustedly. Once more he start- 
ed to protest. Then, suddenly, his im- 
agination brought back the image of 
Ms. Morva, and the idea came to him 
that, indeed, no one could tell what 
such preliminary dalliance might lead 
to. He recalled the several occasions 
on which she had rebuffed his ad- 
vances. He remembered his recent 
humiliation by Mrs. Laubenschneider 
and Mama, the Hundhammers and 
the Luedesings. And it was true, as his 
clever grandnephew had pointed out, 
that some women who reacted coldly 
even to such splendid displays of mas- 
culinity as his could be softened up 
by gifts of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, 
by Mercedes-Benzes, by old-fashioned 
hard cash. For a minute or two, he 
batted these ideas back and forth, his 
resolve crumbling. Finally, making it 
plain that he was inquiring only out 
of curiosity, he asked to what extent 
Pfeng-Plantagenet might be prepared 
to underwrite the project? 

Little Anton reached into the in- 
side pocket of his modish jacket and 
brought out a thick envelope. “Twen- 
ty thousand as a starter,” he replied, 
“and all in hundred-dollar bills. Will 
that be enough?” He looked at his 
great-uncle a little apprehensively. 
“You aren’t thinking of your Ms. Mor- 
va, are you? Even if she’s not a witch. 


if her eyes really do glow red in the 
dark — well, you’d better have a care. 
At least find out more about her — 
you know, what makes her tick, what 
she really wants.” 

“Don’dt vorry,” Papa Schimmel- 
hom assured him, reaching for the en- 
velope. “1 think maybe iss enough to 
shtart. If I need more, I call collect in 
Hong Kong. Lidtle Morva iss herself a 
scientist. I tell her how ve do der 
great scientific experiment vith Nobel 
Prizers.” He winked, subtle as a ser- 
pent. “Maybe I tell her how to fix it 
so someday she gets der prize her- 
self.” 

“That would be nice,” said Little 
Anton, very dubiously. “But don’t try 
to call me in Hong Kong till I get 
back. I’ve got important business in 
Chicago and Denver and Los Angeles, 
and I’ll be checking with you again 
on my way to London in about a week. 
Then you can tell me how things are 
going, and I’ll get a lab set up for 
you.” 

“A lab?” Papa Schimmelhorn was 
puzzled. 

“Absolutely!” laughed Little An- 
ton. “Just a small one — for our 
stock-in-trade.” 

F 

Lven in Berkeley, where she had 
taken her M.S. in genetic engineering, 
Morva Poldragon was always consi- 
dered slightly strange. Her attire was 
always almost insultingly formal; she 
invariably refused to take part in such 


NoiielBt Schimmelhom 


69 



intramural sports as antinuke demon- 
strations and setting fire to academic 
buildings; her occasional live-in boy- 
friends, some for a weekend or two, 
others for as long as a fortnight, either 
were faculty members or at least 
looked as though they were; and she 
had an inexplicable way of discourag- 
ing any normal, healthy lad who had 
his sights set on tumbling her — after- 
ward they never seemed to know ex- 
actly what had happened. 

The truth of the matter, as Mrs. 
Laubenschneider had divined, was 
that Morva was indeed a witch — and 
no common, run-of-the-mill witch at 
that. An ancestress of hers in Corn- 
wall had, during the reign of King 
James II, been burned at the stake for 
turning a fellow townswoman into a 
goose and threatening to serve her at 
a Walpurgis Night get-together. Oth- 
ers of her kinfolk, both in the Old 
Country and in Massachusetts (where 
they had come with the earlie.st set- 
tlers), had at various times been 
banged, subjected to public obloquy 
in the stocks, driven out of town, or 
tarred and feathered for such misde- 
meanors as cursing cattle, blighting 
crop.s, and inflicting wens and warts 
and itches on the children of their 
enemies. Others, the more successful 
practitioners — and they were far 
more numerous — had flourished in 
the practice of the law, politics, and 
currency manipulation if they were 
men, or as mistresses of the rich and 
powerful if they were women. 


Morva, having a scientific bent, 
talked the matter over with her aged 
grandmother, two uncles, and an aunt, 
all of whom were adepts in the Craft, 
and they agreed with her that anyone 
skilled both in witchcraft and genetic 
engineering would be tbrice armed, 
the two disciplines obviously com- 
plementing one another. Wisely, they 
counseled her to shun the blandish- 
ments of large, sophisticated corpora- 
tions after completing her education, 
but instead to seek a niche where she 
could do her own research — in her 
own interest. 

“Morva dear,” her grandmother 
had warned her, “no matter how 
much they offer you, those big cor- 
porations won’t provide you with an 
environment where you can perform 
really important experiments — you 
know, like producing changelings or 
having somebody give birth to a real 
homunculus instead of a common 
baby. My, 1 do wish I were your age 
and had your opportunities — every- 
thing we’ve always done or tried to 
do, going to so much trouble with all 
our spells and evocations, would be 
so much easier.” 

So Morva, after leaving the univer- 
sity, had waited for her opportunity 
and finally had answered Mme. Gar- 
gou.sse’s ad for a geneticist. 

Madame had placed it in a genetics 
trade journal, and she had answered 
Morva’s reply by phone. All she want- 
ed, she declared, was to develop the 
largest, healthiest, and tastiest frogs 


70 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



in all the world — far finer than the 
frogs of France or Louisiana. She was, 
she said, the widow of the master chef 
Aristide Gargousse, creator of a thou- 
sand mcmorabie recipes using les 
grenouilles, author of Jearned papers 
on such subjects as We Comestible 
Frog, Its Care and' Preparation; The 
Frog, Acme of Delicate Feasting; and 
The Frog in Sickness and in Health, a 
Restaurateur’s Manual. She listened 
to Morva’s academic qualifications 
and offered her a stipend that, though 
a bit less than a major corporation 
might have paid her, was more than 
adequate; and Morva immediately 
accepted. 

Ms. Poldragon had no difficulty in 
finding a convenient apartment. She 
simply told the other members of her 
coven, and in a day or two she had it, 
complete with moderate rental and a 
lease. Mme. Gargousse, who had ex- 
pected to be put to a little trouble in 
housing her new employee, was de- 
lighted. She at once invited Morva to 
have dinner with her at La Grenouille 
d’Or. They feasted, of course, on frogs’ 
legs, chosen by Madame from a menu 
featuring perhaps a dozen recipes of 
her late, great husband’s, and pre- 
ceded by a rich frog veloute. 

The restaurant itself was on the first 
floor of a handsome stone residence 
dating back to the late eighteenth 
century, the upper stories of which 
she herself inhabited. 

“Truly, here I achieve my hus- 
band’s dream,” she declared. “Imag- 


ine! Here in America, of all places! I 
have had to make compromises, na- 
turellement. Par example—” She 
pointed at a huge tank against one 
wall, in which perhaps a hundred, 
perhaps two hundred frogs were 
swimming, happily unaware of the 
fate awaiting them. “That is for the 
nouveaux riches, you understand? 
They pay to pick their own. Only for 
the cognoscenti, the intelligentsia, 
do we save the finest ones, like those 
that we ourselves shall eat. For the 
rabble, we have frozen frogs’ legs 
from Korea, from Taiwan; they do not 
know the difference. But fortunately 
the Yale College is nearby—” She 
sighed, “—not the Sorbonne, certain- 
ly, but still, the people are not quite 
illiterate, for which one must be 
grateful, n’est-ce pasl” 

"Ah, oui! Mais certainementV' 
Morva agreed, 

Madame chuckled, and the golden 
frog brooch on her mighty bosom 
made swimming motions. “Ah, We 
shall get along famously, you and I,” 
she .said. “I can see you are a young 
lady of intelligence and—” She had 
noticed how the eyes of her male cus- 
tomers had followed Morva. “—of 
course of good moral character. But 
tell me, why do you keep those beau- 
tiful green glasses on?” 

Morva explained that much study 
had made her eyes exceptionally sen- 
sitive. 

“Pauvre petite! Now, working for 
me, with my frogs, you will not have 


NobelUt Schimmelhorn 


71 



to strain them so much. You will have 
your own laboratory, in a little build- 
ing by the grenouilliere, my frog 
pond, and you can illuminate it any- 
way you wish. Tomorrow I will show 
you. We treat our frogs kindly here—” 
Her formidable jaw relaxed in a 
.sentimental smile, “—yes, indeed! 
When we kill them, they feel no pain. 
My husband always used to say, ‘Philo- 
mene, our frogs are aristocrats. They 
deserve an aristocratic death.’ He in- 
vented the small guillotine we use. 
Pouf! It is over in an instant. Often, 
when we prepare a banquet, 1 take 
my knitting and sit within the kitchen 
and watch. After dinner you shall 
see.” 

Morva, watching the small batra- 
chian reign of terror Madame’s em- 
ployees put on for her benefit, ex- 
pressed her approval of the humani- 
tarian instinct that had prompted it, 
and Madame almost purred with .satis- 
faction. “Ma cherie," she said, “ne- 
vaire could I be cruel to them, my 
frogs. They are such dear little crea- 
tures!” 

Next morning she introduced 
Morva to the frog pond. It was located 
not far from the restaurant and was 
fed by a small creek that, normally 
forced underground by civic develop- 
ment, surfaced there momentarily. It 
was a big pond, surrounded by cat- 
tails, flowering bushes, and a high 
chain-link fence topped menacingly 
with barbed wire. Next to it stood a 
small, very modern building. 


“Here is where you will work,” 
proclaimed Madame. “Only in the 
daytime will anyone else come here. 
Petit Pierre, whom I brought firom 
France. He is a frog-sexer, even the 
tadpoles. Always he can pick out the 
males, a secret in his family for many 
generations. He comes twice a week, 
no more often.” She unlocked the 
door. “Behold!” 

Morva beheld a surprisingly well- 
equipped laboratory — it even had a 
Japanese electron microscope. “Oh 
Madame Gargousse!” she cried. “How 
splendid! I’m sure I’ll be very happy 
working here.” 

And so, for several months, she 
did work happily. She set up effective 
spells to protect the pond from owls 
and other predators, and, combining 
modern science with a generous dol- 
lop of magic, she succeeded in breed- 
ing several new strains of frogs quick- 
er to mature, hardier than their 
predecessors, and with much meatier 
legs. The fact that Madame started to 
express dissatisfaction because they 
weren’t much bigger than ordinary 
bullfrogs didn’t trouble her. She had 
faith in her expertise and her eventual 
success. 

For a long time the only thorn in 
her flesh was Papa Schimmelhorn. 

Subtlety was not his long suit, but 
he started out in a small way, smiling 
at her in the street or in the super- 
market, flexing his huge muscles for 
her, commenting to her on the weath- 


72 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



er, advising her to half a nice day. 
Mildly amused, at first she had re- 
sponded simply by looking through 
him, but instead of being discouraged, 
he had advanced to the next step: 
ringing her doorbell apologetically 
to offer her small bouquets of posies, 
personally picked from neighbor’s 
gardens, or little bags of gumdrops 
and hard candy. On each occasion, 
she glared at him and closed the door 
in his face. 

Getting definitely irritated, she 
asked a few questions about him in 
the neighborhood, and got a thor- 
ough, gossipy rundown. It did not 
make her want to improve their ac- 
quaintanceship. Then, noticing the 
hex signs painted on the Schimmel- 
horn residence, she asked more ques- 
tions, found out about Mrs. Lauben- 
schneider, and guessed quite rightly 
that her own connection with the 
Craft would soon become the subject 
at least of rumor, which complicated 
the situation. 

She phoned her grandmother, who 
advised her sensibly to keep on ignor- 
ing the old fool — after all, he was 
nothing but a cuckoo-clock mechanic 
— and on no account to resort to 
witchcraft unless absolutely driven 
to it. “It’s bad enough with the Penn- 
sylvania Dutch biddy onto you, but as 
it stands, all she can do is gossip. 
We’ll try to find out what her con- 
nections are, and whether she can do 
anything to hurt you if you try to put 
a spell on him or anything. Remem- 


ber, it isn’t true that because most 
people no longer believe in witches, 
things have become safer for us. 
They’re worse, because mostly they 
don’t fear us anymore. So you be care- 
ful, dear.” 

Morva took the advice to heart, 
and even when Papa Schimmelhorn 
obtained her unlisted number by 
bribing a young woman at the phone 
company and began pestering her 
with honeyed compliments on those 
features of her anatomy he found 
most enticing, she did nothing but 
hang up decisively. Finally she had 
her number changed. Then she began 
to receive syrupy greeting cards, usu- 
ally with suggestive little notes in a 
not-too-cultivated hand, and presents 
brought by innocent third parties 
(neighborhood children, generally), 
all of which were dutifully sent back. 
Eventually he managed to get her 
phone number once again. 

By the time Little Anton arrived 
with his proposal, Morva Poldragon 
had really had it, and to complicate 
matters, she could no longer really 
find refuge in her work, for Madame 
— getting impatient and lusting af- 
ter fame and fortune — had started 
riding her about the failure of her 
frogs to attain the prodigious size 
that would make the restaurant even 
more famous than it was. So that if it 
wasn’t Madame complaining, it was 
Papa Schimmelhorn ogling her, or 
phoning her at all hours, or sending 
her his absurd messages and presents. 


Nobelbt Schimmelhorn 


73 



and even — on more than one occa- 
sion — managing to pinch her inti- 
mately in crowds of shoppers. Witch- 
es, like anybody else, have to have 
someone to confide in, and there was 
no one in New Haven she could pru- 
dently go to — not to Madame, cer- 
tainly not to Mama Schimmelho'rn 
(who undoubtedly had been tipped 
off by her friend Mrs. Laubenschnei- 
der,) not even to the police. What 
the hell was the use of being a Grade 
A, black-belt witch if she had to put 
up with that kind of nonsense? Grand- 
mother or no grandmother, she told 
herself, she was going to put a stop to 
it, even if she had to put a stop to 
Papa Schimmelhorn permanently. 

T 

■ he opportunity was not long in 
coming. As soon as Little Anton had 
proceeded on his way, Papa Schim- 
melhorn stashed most of the twenty 
thousand carefully away in a side 
pocket of the Stanley and, with Gus- 
tav-Adolf on his lap, sat down to con- 
coct his plan of campaign. 

“Ve must be very defer, Gustav- 
Adolf,” he declared. “For a vhile, no 
more Hdtle pinchings in der rear, und 
no more phone calls late at night so 
she gets mad. Ve must be all business, 
like die regular Shviss bankers.” 

“Y’ betcha boots!” rumbled Gus- 
tav-Adolf, in Cat. 

“Maybe 1 shtart tomorrow, vhen 
Mama goes to church. First I send 
Morva a nice letter, full vith apologies. 


1 tell her maybe I am a dirty old man 
like Mama says, but my heart iss in 
der right place. At first I tell her nod- 
ing aboudt der shperm bank — only 
aboudt Lidtle Anton und P6ng-Pan- 
flageolet und how I am a chenius. I 
tell her how I haff heard she also iss a 
chenius, in chenetics, und how Peng- 
Panflageolet shtarts a great scientific 
program und vants to hire her.” 

Gustav-Adolf mrrowed approving- 
ly, and for the next hour they dis- 
cussed various aspects of the plan. 
Then Papa Schimmelhorn went up- 
stairs, stole some of Mama’s best note- 
paper from her desk, and settled 
down to compose his missive. 

It was an extraordinary document. 
He groveled. He apologized repeated- 
ly. He explained how, despite his ad- 
vanced age, he still was not immune 
to the allure of women who were tru- 
ly beautiful, and how sometimes his 
excess of enthusiasm forced him be- 
yond the bounds of decorum and so- 
cial protocol. He trusted she would 
forgive him, or at least condescend to 
listen to the Peng-Plantagenet prop- 
osal. And in the meantime, would she 
accept the poor present he was send- 
ing her as a token of his atonement? 
He ended it. “Lieber Fraulein, I shtay 
alvays your sincere und true friend,” 
and signed it formally with his full 
name, August Schimmelhorn. After a 
moment’s thought, he added, “P.S. It 
is pronounced Owgoost, but you can 
call me Papa.” Then he tacked on 
another P.S. asking her please to 


74 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



send her answer by the small boy 
who would deliver it together with 
his present, and not by mail or tele- 
phone because such matters Mama 
would not understand. 

Next morning, after a serene 
night’s sleep, he waited until Mama 
had departed, then sallied out to the 
nearest shopping center and pur- 
chased, first a pair of designer jeans 
tight enough to leave no doubts as to 
his manly figure, and then a brace of 
apple-cheeked, simpering plastic 
gnomes, manufactured in South Korea 
after a long-lost Black Forest design. 
One was seated on an obese mush- 
room; the other held an emormous 
amphibian that could have been eith- 
er a frog or toad, and to which the 
gnome seemed devoted. Papa Schim- 
melhorn attached a card to them on 
which he had written. For der frog 
pond. They were, he told himself, a 
much more tactful gift than diamonds 
would have been, or black lace negli- 
gees, or even expensive chocolates. 
However, he finally did add a senti- 
mental touch: a demure spray of vir- 
ginal snowdrops. 

Coming home well satisfied, he 
summoned a local tw'elve-year-old 
named Chauncey and paid him three 
dollars to make the delivery, exacting 
a solemn promise — Scout’s honor 
— never to let a word of it leak back 
to Mama. 

“It iss Sunday,” he told Gustav- 
Adolf, “so lidtle Morva probably iss 
home, und Chauncey iss a goot boy. 


Maybe 1 hear predty soon.” 

For two hours he fretted impa- 
tiently, wondering if Chauncey hadn’t 
been able to find the house, or if he’d 
been seduced from his important mis- 
sion by some cute feminine playmate, 
but eventually the lad returned, hav- 
ing delayed en route to spend the 
three dollars on space games at an 
arcade. 

“That’s some chick. Pop,” he com- 
mented, handing over a pale blue en- 
velope. “Kinda weird — but, woof 
wooT 

Papa Schimmelhorn seized the en- 
velope eagerly and tore it open. 

“Jaf Voo! VooT' he cried joyously 
as he read it, his libido so stimulated 
that he gave Chauncey an extra two 
dollars, reminded him of his promise, 
and sent him on his way. 

Dear Mr. Schimmelhorn, (he read) 
/ have of course heard ofP^ng- 
Plantagenet, and would of course 
he interested in their business prop- 
osition — if it is indeed a business 
proposition. 

May / suggest that you come to 
my apartment — shall we say at 
eight this evening? — so that we 
can discuss the matter? 

Sincerely, 

Morva Poldragon 

Papa Schimmelhorn reread this 
gratifying message and danced a little 
jig. “Shveetheart,” he caroled, “I 
come vith bells on.” 


Nobelist Schimmelhorn 


75 



Having decided the general nature 
of his fate some time before, Ms. Pol- 
dragon had taken little thought of 
precisely what she would do to him, 
except that it would be downright 
nasty. Casually, she had reviewed a 
number of alternatives that witchcraft 
offered her, but she hadn’t made up 
her mind. When she received the two 
gnomes, the nosegay, and his message, 
she realized abruptly that opportunity 
was knocking. While she never for a 
moment believed that a valid business 
proposition would be forthcoming, 
she had indeed heard of Pdng-Plan- 
tagenet, and found herself mildly curi- 
ous as to how anyone so crass could 
be mixed up with them, so she patted 
Chauncey maternally, gave him a Coke 
to occupy him while she wrote her 
answer, and instructed him to give it 
to the nice old man. 

The rest of the afternoon she spent 
brushing up on a variety of spells, 
consulting certain dark works of nec- 
romancy that were the legacy of her 
family. Then, after a leisurely dinner, 
she changed into a clinging silken 
housecoat with an alarming decol- 
letage and donned her large green 
glasses. She arranged the nosegay in a 
small silver vase on the coffee table, 
placed the two gnomes beside her 
fireplace, and brought out a pair of 
Baccarat glasses and an amber liqueur 
in a crystal decanter. She was quite 
sure her pursuer would have told no 
one of the visit, and that a very simple 


spell would ensure Chauncey’s si- 
lence. From there, she decided, she’d 
play it by ear. 

Promptly at eight, her doorbell 
rang. She let him wait a full minute, 
then opened the door abruptly. Papa 
Schimmelhom stood there before her, 
tight jeans, huaraches, a vivid Mexican 
sport shirt advertising the tourist at- 
tractions of Ciudad Juarez, and a 
small Tyrolean hat sporting a sprig of 
plastic edelweiss. "Ach, Donnerwet- 
terP' he exclaimed at the sight of her. 
“How beaudtifiil!’’ 

He received no welcoming smile. 
“Come in,” she said coldly. “I under- 
stand you have a business proposi- 
tion?” 

“Jawohl, gnadige Frdulein,” he 
answered, entering. “Today 1 am all 
business, y«.” He put his hands in his 
pockets to restrain their urge to go 
a-wandering. 

She appeared to thaw a little, smil- 
ing ever so slightly. “Well,” she said, 
“in that case, I imagine we ought to 
get a little better acquainted. Per- 
haps—” She gestured at the coffee 
table and the couch, “—you’d care to 
have a drink or two with me before 
you start explaining what P6ng-Plan- 
tagenet has in mind?” 

He accepted, thanking her effusive- 
ly, and seated himself To his disap- 
pointment, after pouring the liqueur, 
she pulled up an armchair and sat in 
it facing him across the table. Her 
gaze, through her green glasses, was 
unblinking. 


76 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



He raised his glass. “To luff!” he 
proposed gallantly. 

She raised her glass in turn. “To 
business!” 

Hastily, he nodded. 

“And how is Mrs. Schimmelhorn?” 
she asked pleasantly. 

He gulped, and replied that Mama 
was doing as well as could be ex- 
pected, considering— On the point 
of saying considering that she did not 
understand him, he broke off prudent- 
ly and told Morva how fascinating it 
was that she, so young and beautiful, 
was a real scientist vorking vith nice 
lidtle frogs. 

“Do you like frogs, Mr. Schimmel- 
horn?” she asked slowly. 

He drained his glass. "Ja! Alvays 
since I am a lidtle boy. So cute! Sing- 
ing at night — croak, croak!” 

She filled his glass again, and they 
made small talk. How did she like 
New Haven? And wasn’t Mme. Gar- 
gousse an interesting person? And 
how did she occupy her spare time? 

At that she smiled, filled his glass 
once more, and told him that in her 
spare time she studied to be a better 
scientist. 

Tbe liqueur, meanwhile, was go- 
ing to his head. “It is wunderschOn, 
der liqueur,” he told her, holding his 
glass out again. “So varm and un- 
laxing.” 

“Good,” she answered, pouring. 
“And now you can outline that busi- 
ness proposition.” 

A bit reluctantly. Papa Schimmel- 


horn leaned back and started his re- 
cital. He explained to her how he vas 
a chenius, and gave her a rundown on 
everything he had accomplished sci- 
entifically. He told her what Herr 
Doktor Jung had said about how on 
the conscious level he wasn’t much 
better than a high-grade moron, and 
that his chenius vas all in der subcon- 
science. He related how, through Lit- 
tle Anton, he had become involved 
with Pdng-Plantagenet. Then he hes- 
itated. 

“Yes?” she said. “And the business 
proposition?” 

Papa Schimmelhorn blushed. Her 
gaze now seemed to be even steadier 
than before. He began to stammer. 

She smiled sweetly. “Do go on,” 
she encouraged him, refilling his glass 
once more. 

He shifted uncomfortably. “You 
undershtand? It iss all only business?” 

“Of course,” she murmured. 

And the whole story poured out 
of him, interrupted only by embar- 
rassed coughs and hesitations and 
apologies. She did not interrupt him 
once while he was telling about the 
Nobel Prize winners and what they 
were doing for the human race, and 
how much better qualified he was to 
perform the same service, only — na- 
tiirlich — all by himself could nodt 
do it. He vas a man, nodt a shmall boy. 
Und he had thought maybe she— 

He reached into his pocket and 
brought out the fifty hundred-dollar 
bills. 


Nobelist Schimmelhorn 


77 



"Only for der human race ve do 
it!” he vowed fervently. “For der hu- 
man race und for science! Yourself 
you are a scientist, so you under- 
shtand!” 

“1 do indeed.” 

“Sehr gutr He laughed heartily. 
“Dot iss vot I haff told Lidtle Anton. 
Imachine! Frau Laubenschneider says 
you are a vitch! Such silliness.” 

Morva Poldragon did not laugh. 
Very .softly, .she .said, “Oh, but I am a 
witch. 1 am a very competent witch 
indeed.” 

He laughed again, a little lamely. 
“You make a choke!” 

“Oh no, I don’t!” she told him. 
“Not at all.” Then suddenly she, too, 
laugh, chillingly. Moments before, 
during the course of his recital, in- 
spiration had come to her, and in- 
stantly she had known what she was 
going to do. Now she leaned toward 
him. 

“You,” she said, in a voice unbe- 
lievably cold and cruel, “are just what 
everyone said you were. You are a 
dirty old man — and not even an or- 
dinary one. You are an especially dirty 
old man. Well, you aren’t going to be 
one much longer. I am going to turn 
you into a frog.” 

Papa Schimmelhom’s laugh was a 
decidedly enfeebled one. "P-people 
do nodt get turned into — into any- 
thing — nein. Nobody can turn any- 
vun into a frog. Der scientists say—” 

Abruptly, she stood over him. “Try 
to stand up,” she ordered. 


He tried. He found that his legs 
would not obey him. 

“That,” she informed him, “was 
my preparatory potion — in the li- 
queur. So you will sit while I perform 
the necessary small ceremony—” 

Lifting her arms above her head, 
she started chanting, and even he, in 
his ignorance of witchcraft, felt that 
she was uttering abominable words 
of dreadful power. 

“Please—” he begged. 

Suddenly, around him, through 
him, there was a terrible burst of 
light, first blinding white, then flash- 
ing out in coruscating colors. It died. 
He looked around. The coffee table 
and his glass were on a level with his 
eyes, and all the world was gray and 
black and white. He looked up at the 
gray and white woman towering over 
him; he heard her laughter ringing 
strangely in his ears. He tried to stand. 
His legs — his hind legs — still re- 
fused to stir. 

"Cmakr said Papa Schimmelhom. 
He repeated it dismally. 

Morva reached down and patted 
him. “Don’t worry,” she said, “you’re 
a splendid specimen. Wait just a 
minute — ” 

She left the room and returned 
almost instantly with a big hand mir- 
ror. “See?” she said. 

Papa Schimmelhom looked in the 
mirror. All he could see was an emor- 
mous bullfrog, huddling in the now 
empty fabric of his festive sport shirt. 
The fact that he was looking at by far 


76 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



the biggest bullfrog he had ever seen 
comforted him not at all. 

“CROOAK! ” he boomed. 

“Hu.sh, hu.sh!” Morva chided him. 
“Be quiet now, and you can watch me 
change.” 

Slowly, she peeled off her silken 
housecoat, her panty hose, her bras- 
siere. She turned, pirouetting. “How 
do you like me, Mr. Schimmelhom? 
Perhaps you think it’s a pity I’m not a 
girl frog? Well, don’t waste your time. 
Frogs don’t do it the way we do. My 
frogs especially have been genetically 
engineered so the boys and girls 
simply don’t need to get together. My 
lady frogs lay their eggs among the 
lily pads, and only special gentlemen 
frogs come along and fertilize them. 
Isn’t that nice?” 

She put her underwear on again 
and donned slacks and sweater. From 
a closet she brought something that 
looked like a small cat carrier. She 
popped Papa Schimmelhom, squirm- 
ing feebly, into it. By this time he was 
thoroughly in shock. He tried to utter 
a protesting croak and failed. 

And now, she said, “we’re going 
calling. You’re going to meet all your 
nice new friends.” 

She W'ent on talking to him all the 
way down to her car, and all the way 
to Madame’s frog pond. There she un- 
locked the gate and carried him to 
the pond’s far end. She opened the 
door of the carrier and dragged him 
out. 

It was a fine spring night, and a 


great full moon was shining. “By now 
your hind legs should be working,” 
she told him; and obediently he tried 
them. The effort resulted in an un- 
skilled but definite hop. “There!” she 
said. “In a minute or two, you’ll be 
good as new.” 

She waited with him, singing a 
sentimental little love song. Finally 
she said, “Now try again.” 

He hopped, much more success- 
fully, and his despairing croak sound- 
ed like the voice of a lost frog-soul. 

She pointed at the pond in front 
of him. “Look,” she coaxed. “Just 
look at those lovely lily pads!” 

Papa Schimmelhom looked. He 
saw lily pads — and between them, 
on the water’s surface, glistening in 
the moonlight, the thousands upon 
thousands of new frogs’ eggs. 

She picked him up. “Hop to it, 
Nobel Prize winner!” she command- 
ed. “Do your stuff!” 

And she threw him well out into 
the water. 

Then, chuckling, she locked the 
gate behind her and drove home, 
satisfied that she had not only dis- 
posed of an annoyance, but almost 
certainly also solved the problem of 
much larger frogs for Madame’s cus- 
tomers. 

H ardly anjthing is as profoundly 
disturbing to the male ego as being 
turned into a frog, and when the 
transformation is inflicted almost 


Nobelist Schimmelhom 


79 



without warning, at a time of scarcely 
suppressed sexual anticipation, and 
by the lady responsible for the arous- 
al, its effect is multiplied at least 
threefold. Papa Schimmelhom knew 
rather vaguely what had happened to 
him, but so stunned was he that the 
full horror of his situation took a long 
time to percolate through to that con- 
scious mind that Herr Doktor Jung 
had held in such low regard. On the 
way to the frog pond, he did not even 
marvel that, in his frog form, his men- 
tal faculties did not seem affected, 
and when Morva Poldragon chucked 
him out into the water, his only 
thought was to strike out for terra 
firma. 

After a moment he realized that 
he was swimming wonderfully well, 
and that it was his long, powerful 
hind legs that, webs and all, enabled 
him to do so. The very idea added to 
his awakening despair, and when 
something told him, subliminally, to 
head for a nearby lily pad, he did so. 
Luckily, it was a very large lily pad, 
big enough to bear his weight. Clumsi- 
ly, he climbed up onto it, uttered an 
unhappy deep-bass crro-o-ak, and 
looked around apprehensively. A 
huge, uncaring moon stared down at 
him, and all around him now, he heard 
the voices of his fellow frogs raised 
up in song. He scarcely noticed when 
his long tongue flicked out to capture 
a fat fly that had come carelessly into 
range. Then, for an instant, he was 
overcome by revulsion because it had 


really tasted pretty good going down. 

For a time he simply sat there, ab- 
sentmindedly snaffling an occasional 
insect. “Lieber GottP’ he thought. “1 
haffbeen shtupid. Fran Laubenschnei- 
der vas right. Maybe, ven I get home, 1 
tell her I am sorry—” 

Then he remembered that at the 
moment his chances of getting home 
again appeared to be precisely zero, 
and had he not been a frog, he would 
undoubtedly have emitted an unmanly 
sob. He began to wrestle, rather dim- 
ly, with the problem of how to escape 
from his predicament. There seemed 
to be no solution to it. His genius, 
wriggling around in his subconscious, 
came up with no ideas at all — and he 
realized that if it did, he lacked the 
equipment with which to implement 
them. Tbere was no way in which he 
could communicate. The frogs 
around him certainly were not tele- 
pathic, for they paid no heed to his 
silent agonies. His front tegs were not 
adapted to writing SOS’s or handling 
scientific instruments — even if such 
instruments had been available. 

Presently he lapsed into a dull 
apathy, and it was in this condition 
that he began to become aware of the 
subtle messages carried on the warm 
night air, messages from a thousand 
lady frogs telling him the surface of 
the pond was teeming with lovely 
brand-new frogs’ eggs just aching for 
his attentions. He fought against them, 
but the messages kept intensifying. He 
began to feel obscure urges— 


80 


Fantasy & Science Fklion 



Mentally he recoiled, disgusted 
with himself. Vot iss? he thought. / 
am a man, not ein frog! 

He looked down at the visible 
part of his new anatomy, and realized 
how wrong he was. He croaked 
agonizingly. 

The subtle, unheard siren song of 
the lady frogs and their to-be-com- 
pleted offspring kept assailing him, 
and the urges they aroused kept in- 
tensifying. 

Had he been his usual ebullient 
self he would without a doubt have 
shucked them off without a thought. 
But he was not. His thoroughly trau- 
matized ego was too enfeebled to 
cope with the assaults of spring and 
Mother Nature and the yearnings of 
his innumberable companions. 

Just after midnight he hopped off 
the lily pad and, suffused with shame, 
in spite of himself began to do what 
any proper boy frog would have en- 
joyed doing. “Gott in HimmelP' his 
mind cried out. "Iss vorse than being 
a Nobel Prze vinner." 

Only the fact that frogs have no 
tear ducts kept him from weeping 
like an abandoned child. 

Papa Schimmelhorn’s exertions 
during the remainder of that night 
did nothing to lessen his abject mis- 
ery. When he started rudely shoulder- 
ing smaller male frogs aside, he found 
himself distressingly incapable of de- 
sisting; and as the night wore on and 
his activities began to exact their toll, 


he actually began to look forward to 
the occasional juicy insect that came 
his way. At daybreak he retired to the 
shore, found a secluded spot under a 
jutting brookside stone, and permit- 
ted himself to doze. Immediately he 
dreamed — and his dreams were 
nightmares, in which a hideous witch, 
in no way like Morva Poldragon, was 
presiding over a steaming caldron in- 
to which she had thrown such deli- 
cacies as eyes of newts, serpents’ in- 
nards, and interesting parts of freshly 
hanged murderers. Cackling fiendish- 
ly, she was getting ready to add great 
gobs of frogs’ eggs and, as a final 
touch, himself. At that point he’d 
wake up shuddering, and twice, be- 
fore realizing that the nightmare 
wasn’t real, he had thrown himself 
back into the pond. But strangely, ev- 
en in these dreams, he would remem- 
ber Morva and his mind would whis- 
per, Ach, such a predty pussycat — 
vot a shame. 

It probably was well for him that 
his conscious IQ was so low, for had 
he been more intelligent, he might 
very well have come completely un- 
hinged mentally. As it was, when after 
breakfast Morva arrived with Mme. 
Gargousse and the small Frenchman, 
Petit Pierre, in tow, he made no at- 
tempt to flee, not even struggling 
when Morva picked him up, and utter- 
ing only an occasional pitiful croak. 

Morva held him up proudly. 
“There you are, Madame!” she boast- 
ed. “Superfrog! Look at bim — more 


Nobelist Schimmelhorn 


81 



than twice as big as any bullfrog ever 
— and look at the meat on those hind 
legs!” 

“C’est merveilleuxf" Madame 
shook her head in admiration and, 
sentimentally, caressed Papa Schim- 
melhorn’s froggy head. “Morva, ma 
chMe, truly you are a genius. I shall 
raise your salary immediately. But — 
but tell me—” She blushed amd sim- 
pered. “Has he — that is — has he 
done his duty?" 

"Absolument, MadameP’ Morva 
answered. “Hasn’t he, Pierre?” 

Pierre, half-swallowed in a huge 
roly-poly sweater and wearing a too- 
large cloth cap, reached out a thin 
yellow hand and probed Papa Schim- 
melhorn intimately here and there. 

“I can ssure you that he has, Ma- 
dame,” he averred. “Ah, yes indeed! 
Also, if he had not, he would have 
been much more difficult to catch, 
n’est-ce pas?' 

Morva laughed. “Well, we’re going 
to have to see that he gets lots of nice, 
nutritious bugs. After all, he’s just 
started!” 

Papa Schimmelhorn’s despondent 
crro-oak aroused no sympathy what- 
ever. All three just looked at him 
admiringly. 

“Besides,” continued Morva, “the 
eggs he’s fertilized are going to hatch 
much faster than ordinary frogs’ eggs, 
and I'm sure we’ll find the tadpoles 
just enormous.” 

Petit Pierre clasped his hands and 
rolled his eyes. “Ah,” he murmured. 


“it is that I can hardly wait. It will be 
so easy to tell the sex!” 

Morva put Papa Schimmelhorn 
down, gave him a delicate boost with 
the tip of an expensive shoe, and said, 
“Off you go. Superfrog. Have a nice 
orgy!” 

Obediently, he hopped slowly to 
the water’s edge and jumped in; and 
his three visitors, well pleased, took 
their departure. 

The next day, and the days follow- 
ing, passed very much as had the first. 
The supply of frogs’ eggs seemed ab- 
.solutely unlimited, for Morva’s spells 
had protected la grenouilltere very ef- 
ficiently against all ordinary preda- 
tors. For Madame, her visits were oc- 
casions for rejoicing. She calculated 
the number of fine fat frogs that Papa 
Schimmelhorn might reasonably have 
been expected to have sired, how 
much each probably would weigh, 
and what she could charge her avid 
customers. Indeed, she told herself, 
she did not doubt that the day was 
not far off when she could truthfully 
advertise frog steaks, and perhaps 
eventually rdtis of frog. 

As for Morva, she took every op- 
portunity to drive verbal needles into 
her victim, asking him laughingly 
about his conquests, and extolling 
the epicurean delights offered by the 
insect world. Madame joked with her 
about this. “My Morva,” she would 
say laughingly, “you speak to him as 
though he could understand you, is it 


82 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



not? As though he were a lover who 
merits your revenge.” 

Then Petit Pierre would snicker, 
and Morva would echo Madame’s 
merriment, and poor Papa Schimmel- 
horn, despite all his frogg\’ woes, 
would regard her shining hair, and 
her breasts, and her behind — ach, 
zo cute! — and, in his man’s mind, 
sigh longingly. 

A more sensitive, less resilient 
man might very well have been driven 
to self-destruction — even though 
that might have posed an almost in- 
superable problem in his frog form. 
Besides, on his fifth night, something 
happened that, even though it held 
out no promise of prompt rescue, at 
least helped him to bear up under the 
strain. The moon still had almost all 
its fullness, and he had put in a good 
three-hour shift without even taking 
a bug break, when suddenly behind 
him he heard a soft footfall — a foot- 
fall so soft that it was very nearly in- 
audible. He pau.sed. He whirled. He 
saw a crouching form. Two eyes were 
glowing there, glowing green. Im- 
mediately he was paralyzed by an in- 
stinctive froggish fear. 

The crouching figure — consid- 
erably more massive than himself — 
advanced. It growled gruesomely. 

‘‘Mmmrroo-ou’r’ it said. “A fine 

fat frog! Real tasty, too. I’ll bet. Don’t 
you move, frog! Won’t do you a damn 
bit of good. I’m . . . going . . . to . . . eat 
. . . your 

Abruptly, Papa Schimmelhorn real- 


ized that, though no one could actual- 
ly have heard anything but Mmmrroo- 
ow he understood it all, and he also 
understood what had occurred. Gus- 
tav-Adolf — wearing the flea collar 
Mrs. Laubenschneider had woven for 
him, with its efficacious hex signs — 
had been immune to Morva’s protec- 
tive spells. He had come out to catch 
himself a bite of frog, and now all his 
muscles were tensing for the final, le- 
thal leap. 

"Gustav-Adolfr screamed Papa 
Schimmelhorn in desperation. “It’s 
me! It’s Papa! I am nodt goot to eat! I 
am not a frog, neinP’ 

On the point of takeoff, Gustav- 
Adolf froze. “Huh?” he exclaimed in 
Cat. “Per Pete’s sake? You mean—?” 

And Papa Schimmelhorn almost 
collapsed with relief to realize that, 
in his frog form, there was nothing to 
impede that ordinary telepathy be- 
tween man and cat that most cat own- 
ers have at one time and another ex- 
perienced. Hastily — croak! croak! 
croak! — he explained what had hap- 
pened to him, how a vieked vitch had 
changed him, how— 

“O.K.,” said Gustav-Adolf “You 
ju.st hold on a minute, chum. I’m 
starv’ed. Wait till I catch me another 
frog — a smaller one’d go down better 
anyhow — and I’ll be with you. Hell’s 
fire! I been tryin’ to talk to you fer 
years, and you just been too goddamn 
dumb to understand. Must be some- 
thing to this frog business after all! 

Silently, he disappeared, and pres- 


Nobel'ist Schimmelhorn 


83 



ently, out of the ambient night, came 
the distressed sound of a frog voice 
cut off in mid-croak, followed after a 
bit by businesslike crunchings and a 
deep-throated purring. Papa Schim- 
melhorn, listening, was only momen- 
tarily disturbed by his fellow frog’s 
fate and his own narrow escape from 
a similar end. Instead, his hopes 
soared irrationally. Gustav-Adolf was 
a link with home and Mama. Surely, 
somehow, he would prove to be the 
instrument of Papa’s salvation. 

He waited impatiently while his 
old friend ate his snack, returned, 
and completed the obligatory feline 
washing ritual. 

“Hey, that was real good!” Gustav- 
Adolf said finally. “Y’ oughta try one 
sometime—” He broke off, peered 
at Papa Schimmelhorn, and added, 
“Well, I guess maybe not. Anyhow, 
tell me how it happened. Was it that 
Morva chick did it to ya?” 

Jar Papa Schimmelhorn re- 
plied, “It vas Lidtle Morva. All der 
time, Frau Laubenschneider vas right. 
She iss a vitch, und nodt a nice vitch 
— such a shame! — und now 1 am a 
frog und half to help her make die 
baby frogs.” 

“V shoulda had me look her over,” 
put in Gustav-Adolf. “I kin tell every 
time if they don’t mean ya no good.” 

“Now it iss too late, Gustav-Adolf, 
but maybe if 1 promise to be nice, Frau 
Laubenschneider makes a shpell so I 
am me again.” His croaking trembled 
with emotion. “You must hurry home 


und tell Mama, Gustov-Adolf! Right 
avay!” 

“How?” asked Gustov-Adolf 

“V-vot? Vot did you say?” 

“I said how, dummy! If I go to her 
and try to tell her, she’ll just think I’m 
bitching about that goddamn cat box 
or give me some more liver. Get it?” 

Papa Schimmelhorn got it. He re- 
alized abruptly that Gustav-Adolf had 
no way of communicating except by 
meowing, and that this time he him- 
self had no way to scribble a note and 
tuck it under the flea collar so Mama 
would discover it. His answering 
croak was as close to a sepulchral 
groan as a frog’s larynx can manage. 

Gustav-Adolf peered at him close- 
ly. “You look lower’n a snake’s belly 
button, chum. Hell, this ain’t so bad. 
Y’ got the pond pretty near to your- 
self except for all the other frogs — 
and there’s all them eggs. Just play 
you’re a — a what’s it — a Nobel 
Prize winner, like you and the kid 
was talkin’ about.” 

Gustav-Adolf was genuinely fond 
of Papa Schimmelhorn, but his under- 
privileged kittenhood aboard a Scan- 
dinavian merchant ship touching at 
such places as Port Said and even less 
reputable ports east of Suez had left 
him with a few rough edges. 

“Anyway,” he went on, “we got a 
lot to talk about, you and me, now 
you can get the drift of what I’m sayin’. 
You listen—” 

Then, for an hour or more, he re- 
cited all his grievances, like how 


84 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



could a fine, self-respecting tomcat 
be expected to use a scruffy cat box? 
Wasn’t there the whole outdoors, like 
Mrs. Flanagan’s backyard vegetable 
garden down the street? And what 
was with this canned cat food busi- 
ness, just because they’d watched 
some pantywaist who’d never climbed 
a fence after a girl cat gobbling it on 
TV? 

Papa Schimmelhorn did not argue 
with him. It may not have been much 
of a conversation, but at least it was 
keeping his mind from concentrating 
entirely on his own sorrows; and in- 
deed, after Gustav-Adolf had gotten 
his pet gripes off his chest, they spent 
a couple of pleasant hours reminis- 
cing, reminding each other of their 
escapades, amatory and otherwise. 
Finally, when Gustav-Adolf stretched 
himself and announced that it was 
time to go, Papa parted from him 
with a pang, and made him promise 
he’d return tomorrow. 

So the long days and nights wore 
on, and though Gustav-Adolf, free to 
come and go, reminded Papa Schim- 
melhorn of his own captivity, still, 
the visits every two or three days be- 
came the high spots in his life. Be- 
sides, Gustav-Adolf did report the 
comings and goings around the house; 
how Little Anton had arrived and visit- 
ed awhile with Mama, and gone on to 
some place called Europe, promising 
to return; and how he heard Mama 
say that she wasn’t at all worried 
about her missing husband, and pooh- 


pooh the anxieties of Mrs. Lauben- 
schneider and her other friends — af- 
ter all, a bad pfennig alvays did turn 
up. 

During the third week, the tad- 
poles began to hatch, and there were 
thousands of them. Morva Poldragon 
and Madame caught a few in a fishnet 
and gloated over them delightedly — 
never had they seen such enormous 
pollywogs; surely they would grow 
into frogs as large or even larger than 
their sire. Madame took to chuckling 
over him, and commenting on how 
impressive he would look inside her 
tank. Think how the customers from 
Yale would boast to all their academic 
friends! And there’d most certainly be 
articles, gloriously illustrated, in all 
the gourmet magazines. 

“But is he not beginning to look 
tired, poor thing?” she’d say. “Do you 
not think perhaps he exerts himself 
too much?” 

“Too much?” Morva would an- 
swer, with a heartless laugh. “Him? 
Why, he’s a regular Nobel Prize win- 
ner, full of nourishing flies and bugs 
and beetles. And if he does wear out a 
little, so what? Pierre says the new 
crop is about 70 percent male.” 

“You mean then we can put him 
in the tank?” 

“Why not? You’re going to have 
plenty more.” 

Papa Schimmelhorn, hearing all 
this, was not alarmed — he knew no- 
thing of the tank in the restaurant, 
and assumed that soon he would, 


Nobdisi Schimmeihom 


85 



metaphorically speaking, be put out 
to pasture as an advertising gimmick. 
In his degradation, any release from 
bondage to the obnoxious eggs seem- 
ed heaven-sent. 

He had been on duty at lagrenouil- 
liire for exactly three weeks, when, 
one bright morning, Morva Poldragon 
greeted him with a cheery “Hello, 
stud!” and, without warning, popped 
him into the frog carrier. “Mein Herr 
Frog-Schimmelhorn,” she told him, 
“are you going to have a nice sur- 
prise!” 

His heart leaped. Could it be? Was 
she really going to change him back 
into his proper shape? 

He soon began to suspect that she 
was not. As they passed through the 
restaurant’s capacious kitchen, she 
paused to point out Mme. Gargousse’s 
little guillotine, to explain its pur- 
pose, and to introduce him to a chef, 
whom she addressed jokingly as Mal- 
tre Robespierre, who operated it. 

Maitre Robespierre, fat and red, 
with a gross mustache, looked him 
over judiciously and remarked, “Oui, 
I think he will fit.” 

Moments later. Papa Schimmel- 
horn found himself swimming around 
in the great tank, surrounded by any 
number of other frogs, and deathly 
afraid of what was going to happen to 
him. 

w 

W W hen the word first got out that 
Papa Schimmelhorn had vanished. 


Mama’s close friends did their best to 
commiserate with her. The Hundham- 
mers and the Luedesings were par- 
ticularly attentive, asking her to din- 
ner and taking her out to lunch, and 
suggesting that possibly, stricken by 
amnesia, he had wandered off and 
would eventually be located in some 
far-off city, and that, bowed down by 
their recent condemnation — which 
they now wholeheartedly regretted — 
he had simply fled away until things 
blew over. They tried to get her to 
report the matter to the police and to 
the FBI, or at least to place a “Come 
home. Papa. All is forgiven.” ad in ail 
the papers. Only Mrs. Laubenschnei- 
der, having a shrewd idea of what 
might have happened, kept her sus- 
picions to herself to spare Mama’s 
feelings. 

As for Mama Schimmelhorn, she 
paid no attention to any of them. “It 
iss nonzense!” she declared. “I tell 
you vhere der old goat iss — chasing 
naked vomen, dot’s vhere!” At this 
point she always stood, hefting her 
stiff black umbrella, her stiff black 
dress crackling, fearsome in her 
wrath. “Chust vait till he gets home. 
In die short ribs I gift der bumber- 
shoot!” 

Little Anton, when he dropped in 
on the way to Europe as he promised, 
was not quite so sanguine. Knowing 
his great-uncle very well indeed, he 
did not discount the possibility of 
Mama being right, but somehow he 
couldn’t get the idea of Morva Poi- 


se 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



dragon being a witch off his mind. He 
confided his fears to Mrs. Lauben- 
schneider, who assured him that they 
were by no means unfounded — that 
without a doubt, Papa Schimmelhorn 
had been ensorcelled; but just how, 
she did not know. When Little Anton 
asked her if she could cobble up some 
sort of counterspell, she sadly shook 
her head and told him that Ms. Mor- 
va’s magic was much more powerful 
than her own, which really didn't go 
much beyond weaving hex signs into 
special flea collars. 

“Well,” Little Anton said, much 
concerned, ‘‘1 don’t suppose we really 
ought to take any abrupt action. Why 
don’t we wait till I get back from Eu- 
rope — it’ll be only two weeks — and 
then, if he’s still among the missing. 
I’ll see to it that my company’s every 
facility is set in motion. We’ll find 
him if anybody can.” 

Mrs. Laubenschneider shook her 
head dismally. Maybe, she said, it 
would be too late — probably it al- 
ready was too late. 

Little Anton set off for Europe in a 
not-too-optimistic frame of mind, and 
returning a fortnight later, he found 
nothing to cheer him. Papa Schimmel- 
horn, of course, had not reappeared, 
and even if Mama was still absolutely 
certain that he would, her friends 
were not. They were at the house 
when Peng-Plantagenet’s Rolls-Royce 
drew up to the curb and, to the 
wonder of the urchins in the neigh- 
borhood, decanted him. 


Mama gave him the bad news at 
the door, and ushered him into the 
parlor, with its two classic Chinese 
ancestral portraits of her and Papa, 
souvenirs to his excursion to an al- 
ternate universe where dragons and 
an imperial China flourished in per- 
fect amity. The Hundhammers, look- 
ing decidedly funereal, were sitting 
on the carved Victorian sofa; the Lue- 
desings, looking grimly resigned, oc- 
cupied chairs underneath the por- 
traits; Mrs. Laubenschneider hovered 
unhappily in the background, finger- 
ing what she hoped was a potent anti- 
hex charm bracelet. 

Little Anton looked at them, and 
decided instantly that something must 
be done to raise morale. He took the 
chair Mama Schimmelhorn indicated, 
leaned forward with his finest smile, 
and said, “Really! You aren’t keeping 
a stiff upper lip, now are you?” 

Pastor Hundhammer shook his 
huge gray head for all of them. 

“Well! ” Little Anton beamed. 
““There’s only one thing for it — you 
all need a bit of bucking up. It’s al- 
ready late, and I daresay you were 
planning to take my beloved great- 
aunt out to dinner? ... I thought so. 
Well, I’ll suggest something else. Why 
don’t we have a drink or two here 
first, and then I’ll take you all to the 
most expensive restaurant in town, 
courtesy of Pfeng-Plantagenet? You 
know, that famous French place, La 
Grenouille d’Or. We can all go in the 
Rolls.” 


Nobelist Schimmelhorn 


87 



Mrs. Laubenschneider, a little hys- 
terically, started to protest that that 
was where the terrible witch— 

Mama Schimmelhorn quelled her 
with a glance. “Ach, you are right, 
Lidtle Anton! 1 do nodt need der buck- 
ing up because I haff goot sense und 
for more than sixty years I know Papa, 
so I am nodt vorried. But for the rest 
of you, 1 go und get der schnapps for 
bucking up, und maybe Frieda—” She 
glanced at Mrs. Hundhammer. “— 
helps vith die canapes, und Lidtle An- 
ton takes us for der goot frog dinner.” 

It was not for nothing that it had 
been said, and more than once, that 
Mama Schimmelhorn looked like a 
cross between Whistler’s Mother and 
the Day of Judgment, and people sel- 
dom argued with her once her mind 
was made up. Now the prospect of 
dining at what had become New 
Haven’s trendiest establishment, and 
of arriving in a chauffeured Rolls, co- 
operated to squelch any lingering 
protests; and Little Anton at once 
took charge of the conversation, tell- 
ing them jokes and interesting anec- 
dotes about what had happened to 
him in Paris or Oslo or Geneva, or 
Hong Kong or Singapore. 

Presently, Mama returned bearing 
a tray with a bottle of good scotch for 
him, one of schnapps for herself and 
Herman Luedesing, and a decanter of 
modest port for the pastor and the 
ladies. Freida Hundhammer followed 
her with another tray of such goodies 
as pickled herring, smoked oysters, 


and a variety of cheeses. Presently the 
gloom began, if not to lift, at least to 
thin out considerably; and by the time 
they were ready to go to dinner, they 
ail had mellowed, and Mama, who 
had been dipping into the schnapps, 
was decidedly tiddly. 

Little Anton had taken time out to 
phone the restaurant, and had so im- 
pressed Madame with the name of 
Pfeng-Plantagenet that she had her 
headwaiter standing outside to escort 
them. She herself met them at the 
door, practically curtsying, and as- 
sured them that they would have the 
finest table in the house, to say noth- 
ing of the most accomplished waiters, 
and — attributing Mrs. Laubenschnei- 
der’s obvious nervousness to an Ameri- 
can fear of eating frogs’ legs, extolled 
their gastronomic virtues in terms 
that would have done credit to Brillat- 
Savarin. 

Their table was located in a semi- 
private alcove, and to reach it they 
had to pass by the enormous frog 
tank, which was well lighted so all its 
denizens could be clearly seen. 

"Was ist das?" asked Madame 
Schimmelhorn. 

Madame explained its purpose. 

“Und vhy iss der great big frog 
making such chymnastics, chumping 
up und down in der vater?” 

Madame replied that it was because 
he was a superfrog, one that she her- 
self had bred just for her good custom- 
ers, a very expensive frog, but worth 
— ah, mon Dieu! — every penny of it. 


88 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



She and the headwaiter seated 
them, Little Anton insisting that they 
have a cocktail or two before dinner. 
“Then,” he said, “we can all go and 
pick our frogs. You will be happy to 
know that they are always humanely 
killed. See here—” 

On the ornate menu, decorated 
with a great golden frog, there was a 
note in very small type explaining 
why Madame’s husband, a humanitar- 
ian, had invented his small guillotine. 

Mrs. Laubenschneider shuddered. 
So did Mrs. Hundhammer and Mrs. 
Luedesing. Pastor Hundhammer pre- 
tended to. Mama Schimmelhorn nod- 
ded approvingly, and said die French 
vere defer people, who beliefed al- 
vays in tradition. 

Sipping their cocktails, they sur- 
veyed the other diners seated beyond 
their own exclusive alcove, and Hein- 
rich Luedesing pointed out several 
professors, members of the Chamber 
of Commerce, and other luminaries. 

Finally the headwaiter came to 
take their orders personally, 

“Allow me!” said Little Anton. “As 
your host, and as 1 know a good bit 
about Madame’s cuisine, with your 
permission I’ll do the ordering. Do 
you mind?” 

“Dot’s O.K.,” replied Mama Schim- 
melhorn, “but 1 choose mein own 
frog.” She fixed the headwaiter with 
a steely eye. “It iss all right, nicht 
wahr?" 

Oui, Madame! Mais certaine- 
ment.” 


“Goot!” She rose. “Ve go now.” 

Accompanied by the headwaiter 
and by Little Anton, she strode across 
the floor, halted at the tank, and 
peered inside. 

She smiled delightedly. “Jar she 
cried. “! take dot vun.” She pointed at 
the huge frog she had noticed pre- 
viously, who now seemed to be get- 
ting positively hysterical. “Such a fine 
vun! Und so big] If 1 cannodt eat all, 1 
get a bowser bag. But first—” She 
paused, chuckling, “ — maybe you 
bring him to me at der table, so 1 see 
him close und maybe feel him.” 

The headwaiter glanced quickly 
at Madame, who was nearby, and she 
gave him the go-ahead, indicating that 
any friend of Peng-Plantagenet’s was 
a friend of hers. 

Mama Schimmelhorn, not too stead- 
ily, went back to her seat, and shortly 
the headwaiter returned, carrying the 
enormous frog, who was struggling 
and croaking rather horrendously. Ma- 
ma regarded him with admiration. 

“How beaudtiful!” she exclaimed. 
“Vith such plump legs!” She reached 
out. “1 must hold him.” 

The headwaiter, a little dubiously, 
surrendered him, and she seized him 
ardently. “Only look at him!” she 
cried out. “Maybe if I kiss him—” She 
simpered coyly. “ — he turns into a 
handsome prince!” 

She raised him up. As he croaked 
even more agonizingly than before, 
she touched his forehead with her 
lips— 


Nobelist Schimmelhorn 


89 



Abruptly, there was a blinding 
explosion of white light, followed 
immediately by coruscating colors — 
and suddenly, in the restaurant, there 
was utter silence. 

Every'one looked. Everyone stared 
openmouthed. 

The frog was gone. 

And there, in all his glory, stood 
Papa Schimmelhorn, stark naked. 

There are times that try men’s 
souls. Madame paled and gasped. The 
headwaiter started backing up, fum- 
bling for a crucifix he had worn on a 
chain as a boy. Paster Hundhammer 
and his wife uttered pious exclama- 
tions. Mrs. Laubenschneider, hardly 
believing it herself, muttered that 
she’d told them so. 

Only Mama was undismayed. She 
took one look at her husband there in 
front of her. Seizing her black um- 
brella, she advanced upon him. 

“HaT her terrible voice rang out. 
“More monkey tricks! First dressed 
up like der frog! Und now you shtand 
there naked vith no clothes on! For 
shamer 

With one hand, she ripped the 
cloth from a nearby table, taking no 
heed of the shattering saltcellars and 
ashtrays. She flung it at him. “Gofer 
yourself up, dirty old man!” 

Dutifully, Papa Schimmelhorn 
wrapped himself in the makeshift 
toga. 

“Und now,” she commanded, “tell 
die nice people you are sortyM” 

Inexpressibly relieved to find him- 


self back in his own form, and filled 
with gratitude to Mama for restoring 
him, he was only too anxious to 
oblige. 

“Croo-oakr 

“Vot? I tell you, no more monkey 
tricks!” 

“1 — 1 am sorry,” he mumbled, 
not quite coherently. 

“Zo! Now ve go home.” With one 
hand, she took him firmly by the ear 
while with the other she started ap- 
plying the point of the umbrella to 
vulnerable parts of his anatomy. 
" March r 

Ignominiously, she walked him to 
the door, hiding him behind a nearby 
Cadillac until Little Anton had had a 
chance to pick up the pieces, gather 
his party', emerge, and summon up 
the Rolls. It took all his ingenuity and 
several minutes to placate Madame 
with P€ng-Plantagenet’s hundred- 
dollar bills, to explain that Papa had 
been hired by a raunchy movie com- 
pany to pull off a publicity stunt that 
had only too obviously misfired, and 
to hint that his genius at trickery was 
second not even to Houdini’s. Ma- 
dame was not convinced — she had 
quite clearly seen a frog vani.sh and a 
man appear — but she accepted the 
explanation with the money, and her 
customers, when she told them, were 
only too happy to accept it also. After 
all, it was a natural explanation, and 
so much easier to believe than what 
had actually occurred. 

The Hundhammers and the Lue- 


90 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



desings, knowing that Papa Schimmel- 
horn was indeed a genius, were re- 
lieved to have their astonishment ex- 
plained away so tidily; and Mrs. Lau- 
benschneider, knowing better, wisely 
kept her own counsel. 

They drove in total silence to the 
Schimmelhorn residence, where Ma- 
ma, looking even more forbidding, 
chivied her defrogged husband' up 
the stairs and through the door, mak- 
ing it clear that he and she had private 
business to transact. Then Little An- 
ton took the rest of them off to an 
excellent Chinese restaurant where 
the mere mention of Peng-Plantagen- 
et brought them an absolutely superb 
dinner. 

None of them — not even Papa 
Schimmelhorn — had noticed Morva 
Poldragon. She had arrived almost at 
the instant of his transformation and, 
when it happened, was standing just 
inside the door waiting for her escort, 
a pallid young associate professor of 
biology, to park his car; and he came 
in to find her leaning back against the 
wall, ashen pale and trembling. 

“Hey,” he said, “Morva, what’s 
wrong?” 

“Please take me home, Hamish 
dear,” .she said in a small almost un- 
recognizable voice. “I — I am unwell. 
Please." 

H ad Morva’s career — academical- 
ly, socially, and in witchcraft — not 
been so uniformly successful. Papa 


Schimmelhorn’s dramatically unex- 
pected return to his human shape 
might not have shocked her as pro- 
foundly as it did. As her young pro- 
fessor rather sulkily drove her back 
to her apartment, she rebuffed his ef- 
forts to find out what had gone amiss 
and, at the door, coldly turned away 
when he tried to kiss her. Locking the 
door hastily behind her, she helped 
herself to a double cognac, sat down, 
drank it, stood up in agitation, then 
began to pace up and down. “How? 
How? How?" she cried aloud. “It was 
impossible'. How could this happen 
to me?” 

She realized that, where Madame 
was concerned, she had irretrievably 
upset her own applecart, and also 
that the gossip in New Haven — 
thanks to Mrs. Laubenschneider — 
would make her presence there un- 
comfortable at the very least. But all 
this did not trouble her half as much 
as the bare — very bare — fact of Papa 
.Schimmelhorn’s retranslation. Finally, 
after fifteen minutes of fretting, she 
phoned her grandmother and poured 
out her troubles. 

“Start at the beginning,” inter- 
rupted the old lady. “Take it calmly, 
step-by-step. What kind of a witch 
are you, anyway?” 

Obediently, Morva went over the 
entire story, telling her grandmother 
everything she had not previously re- 
ported; the astounding accomplish- 
ments of Papa Schimmelhorn’s sub- 
conscious scientific genius, his con- 


Nobelist Schimmelhoi'n 


91 



nection with the reputable — and im- 
mensely rich — firm of P6ng-Plan- 
tagenet, and Anally the disgusting 
proposition he had made her. She re- 
lated how she suddenly had realized 
that not only could she get rid of him, 
but also at one bold stroke solve Ma- 
dame’s frog problem and enhance 
her own reputation as a genetic en- 
gineer. 

Occasionally her grandmother 
broke in with pointed questions, or 
simply chuckled evilly. When Morva 
described the plans for a Papa Schim- 
melhorn sperm bank, she laughed 
aloud — definitely a how-stupid-can- 
you-get laugh. 

Then, the tale told, she said, in a 
voice so cold that Morva recoiled, 
“Morva, even when you were little, 
you never would pay attention to your 
lessons. Why did you ever think you 
could turn him permanently into a 
frog?” 

“B-because I — because I knew 
that only those of us who are true 
witches, wizards, warlocks — only 
we can change our shapes and change 
back again. Why, everyone knows 
that. That’s why in the old days, if 
someone killed or wounded a witch 
who’d changed into a wolf or some- 
thing, they’d find her human body 
or, if she was still alive, the wound. 
Besides, that’s why all the ordinary 
people we change into things — the 
ones who disappear — never show 
up again. You taught me that your- 
self.” 


“Indeed I did.” The voice on the 
phone was by no means a pleasant 
one. “But 1 thought 1 also taught you 
that the Craft has more than one 
kind of practitioner. There are those 
who have to learn it the hard way — 
like all our ancestors, like you and 
me.” She paused ominously. “But 
there are also, Morva dear, people 
who are bom to it. Did you never sus- 
pect that all that stupid old man’s in- 
ventions and discoveries might not 
have been due to his subconscious 
scientific genius? That subconscious- 
ly, without even suspecting it, he 
might be one of us? Well, now you 
know. You should have thought of it 
ahead of time. Certainly you should 
have realized it the minute his wife 
kissed him and changed him back. My 
goodness! She wasn’t even a beautiful 
princess!” 

Morva, sobbing a iittle, told her 
she was sorry, truly sorry, that she 
hoped she hadn’t made any trouble 
for the Craft and its present members. 
She said she knew that she would be 
wise to leave New Haven, but was 
there anything else she ought to do? 

“Yes,” said her grandmother. 
“There is indeed. Don’t you realize 
how dangerous that old man may be 
if he harbors a natural resentment — 
especially a subconscious resentment 
— against you for what you did to him, 
for that disgusting business of the 
frogs’ eggs? You can’t leave New Hav- 
en without making amends, without 
pacifying him somehow.” 


92 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



B-b-but howF" quavered Morva. 

“How? That’s up to you. You know 
what he wants, don’t you? Or anyway, 
what he wanted before you behaved 
so stupidly?” 

“Y-yes,” said Morva. 

“Well, give him a few days to get 
used to being a man again, to simmer 
down a bit. That’ll give you a chance 
to think it over and see how right 
your old grandmother is.” 

She hung up without another 
word, and Morva poured herself an- 
other potent cognac. She drank it fac- 
ing the wall mirror, thinking sadly of 
how tired she looked and, yes, how 
beautiful. She remembered an indeli- 
cate compliment Papa Schimmelhom 
had paid to her posterior. 

Then, abruptly, her mind flashed 
her a picture of him there in the res- 
taurant, clothed only in his beard, his 
muscles displayed like those of a 
heroic statue. 

To her amazement, she realized 
that, despite his years, he really was a 
fine figure of a man. 

Papa Schimmelhom, meanwhile, 
cowered on a jump seat in the Rolls, 
looking in his tablecloth a little like a 
displaced Hindu holy man who had 
suffered from the crassness of the 
West. All the way home, the point of 
the umbrella prodded him unremit- 
tingly; and no one spoke to him — 
Little Anton because he judged it to 
be impolitic in Mama’s present mood, 
the Luedesings and the Hundhammers 


because they still were so upset by 
what they’d seen, and Mrs. Lauben- 
schneider because she realized that it 
would not be in good taste to gloat 
just then. 

Finally the Rolls glided to a stop, 
and Little Anton opened the door for 
Mama. Again she seized her husband 
by the ear. “Now ve go in!” she hissed. 
“Und now I make you undershtand 
how vicked you half been, chasing 
naked vomen und playing monkey 
tricks in der nice restaurant!” She 
pulled him out onto the sidewalk. 
“Lidtle Anton, maybe you vill take all 
mein goot friends oudt to dinner, 
und drife them home, und aftervard 
you can come back. In der guest 
room, der bed iss made.” 

Little Anton smiled suavely. “I shall 
return,” he promised her. 

She didn’t wait to watch the Rolls 
depart. Muttering about what she was 
going to do and say, she chivied Papa 
up the steps, onto the stoop, and 
through the door. 

Here it is more humane to leave 
them without describing the further 
humiliations he endured throughout 
the evening, for even Gustav-Adolf, 
coming in after Papa had been robed 
in a more seemly bathrobe and paja- 
mas, looked at him disgustedly. 

“What th’ hell?” he asked in Cat. 
“How did you get back?” 

But all Papa Schimmelhom heard 
was, of course, “Mrrr-ow.” 

Gustav-Adolf looked him over and 
meowed again, more eloquently. 


Nobelist Schimmelhom 


93 



“Back to yer own stupid self,” he said, 
“and lookin’ even lower than when 
you was a frog. Damn all! Mebbe I 
sboulda et you while I had the 
chance!” 

Then, tail high, he stalked from 
the room; and even he didn’t cozy up 
to his old friend for two full days. 

That night Papa Schimmelhorn 
found himself exiled to a cubbyhole 
that had once been a maid’s room, 
and when, at around eleven o’clock. 
Little Anton thoughtfully brought him 
leavings from the Chinese restaurant, 
he was almost pitifully grateful. Long 
before, be had realized vaguely that 
he was terribly hungry; and during 
the course of his ordeal, he had, to 
his own distress and to Mama’s in- 
tense annoyance, absentmindedly 
tried to scoop up a fly or two. 

Little Anton gave him his belated 
supper, patted him consolingly on 
the shoulder, and tiptoed out, and 
presently Papa Schimmelhorn slept 
and dreamed confused dreams of frog 
ponds, eggs by the millions, the king 
of Sweden (who gives Nobel Prizes), 
and Morva Poldragon, who sat there 
and croaked at him. 

During the next couple of days, 
except for a series of sharp lectures 
from his wife on how vicked he had 
been und how did he expect to go to 
hefen vhen he died?, he remained in 
Coventry. He was aware that the Lue- 
desings, the Hundhammers, and Mrs. 
Laubenschneider all came a-calling, 
but only Little Anton sneaked in from 


time to time to cheer him up. Each 
evening, after Mama had provided 
him with an inadequate TV dinner. 
Little Anton took her out to a posh 
restaurant and did his best to soften 
her up a bit. 

Finally, on the third day, she al- 
lowed her husband to return to his 
basement sanctuary, where at last 
Gustav-Adolf rejoined him; and, 
though he was still badly shaken by 
his experience and its aftermath. Papa 
began to feel that in due course, 
things might just possibly return to 
normal. But that afternoon, when Lit- 
tle Anton delicately broached the 
subject of the Nobel Prize winners 
and the projected sperm bank, he re- 
acted violently. 

“Neferr he cried out. “All by 
meinself? Neinf You do nodt under- 
shtand! Lidtle Anton, vhile I vas a frog 

— you cannodt imachine! — all der 
time, by meinself, die eggs! Ugh\ 1 giff 
back to Pfing-Panflageolet der mon- 
ey—” He strode over to the Stanley 
and retrieved the fifteen thousand. 
“Iss all here expect maybe fife thou- 
sand I giff to lidtle Morva.” 

“Don’t worry about that, cherished 
Great-uncle,” said Little Anton gen- 
erously. “We can afford it. But tell me 

— did that girl really turn you into a 
frog?” 

“You vill tell no vun?” 

Little Anton promised. 

So Papa Schimmelhorn gave him a 
blow-by-blow account of his frog 
pond experiences; and Little Anton, 


94 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



listening, saw that any plans for a 
profitable Schimmelhorn sperm bank 
would have to be shelved, at least for 
the immediate future. 

He said as much. “But,” he added, 
“it’s too bad you want to keep the 
whole thing secret. It really is. Some 
of the tabloid’s give you a mint of 
money for your memoirs, to say noth- 
ing of video rights.” 

That night he took Mama out to 
dinner once again, saw that she was 
partly mollified, and told her that the 
next day he would have to say good- 
bye and return to Hong Kong. 

After his departure, having re- 
ceived a solemn promise that he 
would be good, she allowed Papa 
Schimmelhorn to eat with her up- 
stairs; and the following afternoon, 
judging him to be adequately sub- 
dued, she informed him that she 
would be away for the long weekend, 
visiting with Mrs. Laubenschneider in 
Pennsylvania, and ordered him to re- 
main safely in his basement. Chastely, 
he kissed her good-bye when the taxi 
called for her. 

Filled with good resolutions, he 
vowed to keep constructively busy 
amid the loot and clutter of his cuck- 
oo clocks and homemade power 
tools. “Ja, Gustav-Adolf,” he declared, 
“I vill be goot. I vill invent something 
Mjnderful so Mama says how shmart I 
am. I act mein age und try nodt to 
think of predty pussycats.” 

“In a pig’s eye!” rumbled Gustav- 
Adolf. 


There was a sharp knocking at the 
garage door. 

“Veil,” Papa Schimmelhorn ex- 
claimed, “iss Lidtle Anton back so 
soon already?” 

He walked over and opened the 
door. It was not Little Anton. It was 
young Chauncey. 

“Hi, Pop,” he said, holding out a 
perfumed envelope. “I got a note for 
you.” He winked lewdly. “It’s from 
that weird chick you had the hots 
for.” 

“You should be ashamed, Chaun- 
cey,” said Papa Schimmelhorn righ- 
teously. He noticed that his heart be- 
gan to flutter as he took the envelope. 
“Here iss fife dollars. You do nodt tell 
anybody, nein?" 

“Scout’s honor,” Chauncey prom- 
ised. 

Papa Schimmelhorn closed the 
door. He removed the sheet of ivory 
paper. He recognized the clear, bold 
hand. 

Dear Mr. Schimmelhorn, (he read) 
/ have a terrible confession to 
make, and / must ask you to bear 
with me while I make it. I have 
been, and am being, sternly and 
painfully punished for what I did 
to you. The other witches in my co- 
ven, and even my dear grandmoth- 
er, from whom I learned the Craft 
have shown me the error of my 
ways and the selfishness and heed- 
lessness of my treatment of you. 
But everything they have said and 


Nobelkt Schimmelhorn 


95 



done is as nothing compared to 
what my own conscience is put- 
ting me through. 

Please, Mr. Schimmelhom — 
please, Papa — the fact that I am 
trusting you with this confession, 
that I am trusting you to destroy it 
once you have read it, will hear 
witness to my sincerity. Please 
phone me and tell me that I shall 
have a chance to make amends. 

Fondly, 

Morva Poldragon 

Papa Schimmelhom read it once, 
and twice. Then he read it aloud to 
Gustav-Adolf. “I vunder— ” he specu- 
lated, as memories of the frog pond 
began to fade before the other ideas 
invading his imagination. 

“MrrrowV' said Gustav-Adolf 

“Ha! Dot’s it!” Papa Schimmelhom 
slapped his mighty thigh delightedly. 
“Vhen I vas a frog, Gustav-Adolf, you 
told me alvays you could tell if some- 
vun vas a friend Oder an enemy. Now 
ve go up und phone lidtle Morva, und 
if she invites, then you must come 
vith. So 1 vill be safe.” 

They both went upstairs, and Mor- 
va answered the phone almost im- 
mediately. “Oh, Mr. Schimmelhom 
— Papa — how very kind it is of you 
to call. I have been so—” She sobbed 
audibly, “—so dreadfully distressed. 
Please come to see me. If you can, 
please come this very evening. Per- 
haps at seven? We can have supper 
here, and then — and then—” Sud- 

% 


denly she sounded very coy, very de- 
mure. "—then 1 shall try to show 
you— Oh, I do hope you understand?” 

He assured her that he did indeed. 
He vould be there at seven. Und did 
she like cats, because his Gustav-Adolf 
vould like to meet her. 

Morva replied that she loved cats, 
and almost mentioned that her grand- 
mother’s familiar was a cat, but 
thought better of it. 

Papa Schimmelhom blew her a 
kiss over the phone. For an instant 
only, doubts assailed him. He shmg 
ged them off. Maybe if lam lucky, he 
thought happily. Mama does nodt 
find oudt. Then he took a shower, 
doused himself with a musky cologne, 
and — as he no longer had designer 
jeans — put on a pair of lurid tartan 
trousers, a bright Guatemalan shirt 
open almost to the navel, and a pair 
of tasseled brogans. 

A few minutes before seven, he 
hoisted Gustav-Adolf to his shoulder 
and they walked over to Ms. Poldrag- 
on’s. She opened the door dressed in 
the same silken sheath, emphasizing 
everything in which he had been in- 
terested, with a rope of pearls around 
her lovely neck and her long black 
hair garlanding her shoulders. She 
was not wearing her green glasses. 

“I am so happy!” she whispered 
ardently, and put her arms around his 
neck and kissed him. 

As she closed the door behind 
them, he was relieved to see that 
Gustav-Adolf, now on the floor, was 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



rubbing against her legs and purring 
loudly. 

“1 think,” she said into his ear, 
“that we shall both enjoy ourselves 
tonight.” 

She was not disappointed, for Papa 


Schimmelhorn, despite his years, was 
much more than just a fine figure of a 
man. 

And he wasn’t disappointed either. 
Among other things, her eyes did 
glow red in the dark. 


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Nobetist Schimmelhorn 


97 



The fruits of victory are sweet, but in Felix Gotschalk’s 
story, victory is truly “star-studded.” 


Menage a 
Super-Trots 

BY 

FELIX C. GOTSCHALK 


the scale of the pnemoplastic panda 
from kitten-size back up to about 
three hundred simulated, roly-poly- 
pounds, and was coaxing it to jump 
up on the .somnamb chaise, where 1 
lay, supine, naked- and fi.sh-belly vul- 
nerable. Tiffany lay beside me, and 
she leaned over to kiss my umbilical 
invagination, and giggled a falsetto in 
her laryngeal transducer. In all my 
fifty calendrical tiers of life on Earth, 
I, Andrew Jackson Dalton, Brigadier 
(ieneral of the Armies (Retired), had 
never felt genuinely godlike until 
these two angels had been awarded 
to me after the victory I masterminded 
in the brief Germanic War of the year 
2014. The West Germans had been 
actively planning for war since 1945 
(like the Israelis, Teutonic tribes are 
historically warlike), and the United 
States had grown fat and indolent. 


then overly dependent on both for- 
eign imports and foreign capital, and 
finally insolvent. The landlocked Ger- 
mans wanted the geographic bedrock 
security of the U.S. continent, pro- 
tected, as it was, on both coasts by 
great oceans, and since there were 
already millions of sympathetic Aryans 
here — “Jesu Christus!” Tiffany 
squealed, as Mary Claire mounted the 
panda and levitated up over us, riding 
the massive, cuddly beastie like a 
broncobuster. Tiffany rolled on top 
of me, in a marvelously mock gesture 
of protectiveness; then she fitted her- 
self to me, and my command-level 
shaft grew up into her velvety bio- 
human folds. She activated her deep 
constrictors, and I felt sacrally welded 
to her. 

“Libertine!” Mary Claire hissed 
playfully to Tiffany, her green eyes 
flashing, her perfect lips puckered 


98 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



and parted to reveal perfect teeth. 
She looked like Linda Evans as a young 
girl. 

“All’s fair,” Tiffany laughed, bur- 
rowing her Stephanie Powers face in 
my neck, but Mary Claire lowered 
down on us, like the nude on the 
Warhol walrus, and settled the giant 
furry panda on Tiffany, ventral over 
dorsal, adjusting the graviton field so 
that the net weight of beast and rider 
served to deepen my penetration. It 
was an extra-phylum menage k qua- 
tre of the most extraordinary sui 
generis sort, though the panda was 
along just for the ride, hah hah hah. 
Young flesh — all men my age want 
it, and those who can afford it will 
line up at the market to buy it by the 
pound. However, The Coolidge Ef- 
fect can be dangerously sweet agony 
at my age, and I did not feel up to 
trying for a third orgasm that night. 

Tiffany was making little rasp- 
berry-eructative noises with her 
mouth resting on my starboard neck, 
the panda was nuzzling me on the 
port side, and then Mary Claire bent 
down and fastened her perfect mouth 
on mine. With the greatest volitional 
effort, I bio-fed detumescence, and 
my staunchly heroic pillar of blood 
softened and retracted. Tiffany pout- 
ed in her own charming way, Mary 
Claire dematerialized the panda, and 
my two angels snuggled against me, 
like the unconditionally adoring pets 
they were. God, could any man, living 
or dead, be as happy as 1? No, for I 


had fulfilled that most elusive of man’s 
dreams: polygamy with two optimal- 
ly programmed females; interaction 
on demand with two perfect women. 
I had fought the good fight in the 
2014 war, though all I really did was 
scramble the telemetry of the Ger- 
man launch system with an EMP, the 
energ)' fusing every transistor in ev- 
ery silo; but it saved the good old 
U.S.A., restored its fiscal solvency, 
and I retired from military service as 
a brigadier, with a pension worth 
about J250K a year, not including 
perks and fringes and escalators. 

Mary Claire and Tiffany were ge- 
netically engineered bio-human fe- 
males (God, no words can describe 
their excellence), given to me by T. 
Bone Pickens III, who was the planet’s 
first trillionaire, and whose business 
interests I saved. He put it this way: 
“. . . you saved all our asses, Andy, 
and you deserve the best. These here 
two supergals are the most expensive 
virgins on the planet, and 1 want you 
to have ’em boaf . . .” And so I was 
living with two angels. I owned them. 

Things had been going so well for 
so long that 1 had begun to take my 
omniscience, omnipotence, and om- 
nipresence for granted. Everything I 
did reinforced my power, and, after 
all, power Is the ultimate aphrodisi- 
ac. Mary Claire’s and Tiffany’s per- 
fection could never have existed in 
mere humans: the flexible dimensions 
of their personalties and the bionic 
parameters of their physiologies were 


Manage a Super-Trois 


99 



exquisitely programmed, so that, at a 
confidence level of .001 or so, 1 could 
expect them to speak and act with all 
but infallible appropriateness. And 
the control systems — the power — 
were all mine, for the girls were pair- 
bonded to me through pheromonal 
interfacing, activated by my double- 
helix DNA thumbprint pressure on 
their life-support bezels, which were 
beautifully cosmetized and set on the 
velvety expanses of their perfect ab- 
domens. Once extruded by my print, 
it was like dialing the secret combina- 
tion of a complex safe, and 1 could 
rheostat either or both girls into any 
one of ten different, metabolically 
cued behavioral regimens. Within 
themselves, the ten programs seemed 
infinitely responsive to my inputs, so 
that 1 could replicate (or invent at 
will) interactions of the most dis- 
tinctive sorts. I had to be careful, 
though, because Mary Claire and Tif- 
fany had kinetic implants that gave 
them great strength, and if I wanted 
to slap them around (which, surpris- 
ingly enough, had occurred to me), 
their bezels would have to be set at 
low centile QUIESCENT levels, never 
— never at, say, an ALPHA MANIC 
level. Because of my DNA coded ac- 
cess, I could never be cuckolded (how 
many men could boa^ of that?), but 
primogeniture rights were another 
matter, as I was about to find out. 

“Well, owl-shit, Andy,” T. Bone 
Pickens III bawled out at me, as he 
sprawled, intoxicated, in a fine cha- 


mois chaise. “I gave them gals to you. 
Cost me a bundle, too. Least you can 
do is let me fuck ’em.” The ninety- 
seven-year-old Pickens had teleport- 
ed to my Malibu condo all the way 
from St. Moritz, and had been pop- 
ping frozen tequila and grapefruit 
juice pellets and stroking Tiffany’s 
flanks. He was acting like the girls 
were his property. To be safe, I put 
both the girls on a centile 10 QUIES- 
CENT setting. Tiffany was smiling, 
uneasily, like a child being petted by 
an ugly great-grandfather, and Mary 
Claire was standing beside me, like 
an obedient daughter. I wanted to get 
rid of Bone before he made any rash 
moves on the girls. 

“Now Bone, you know the girls 
wouldn’t go along with that. They’re 
pair-bonded to me for life.” 

“Thissun here doan seem to mind 
gettin’ her laigs felt up—” 

“Are you my great-grandfather?” 
Tiffany asked, moving free of Bone’s 
touch. There was a subtle stria of 
anger in her soft voice. Bone roared 
with drunken laughter. 

“Is that what General Andy told 
you!” He cocked his melon face up at 
me and leered asymmetrically. He 
was wearing a twenty-inch waxed 
handlebar mustache and a 20X Beav- 
er Stetson. “Yeah, gal, I’m your origi- 
nal Big Daddy. Come and sit on your 
daddy’s lap.” 

“I must tell you, sir, that I find your 
familiarity offensive.” Tiffany turned 
icy, and I winced. I didn’t want to 


100 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



appear ungrateful to Bone, but then I 
hadn’t seen him in two years, and he 
wasn’t a personal friend. Of course 
he was my benefactor; a very power- 
ful man, who had given me a price- 
less gift, but he was beginning to of- 
fend me now. Funny thing about per- 
sonal offense at the hands of a cele- 
brity — i>eople are afraid to counter 
it. Sometimes it’s fear and sometimes 
it’s — shit, I don’t know what it is. I 
put the girls on nonverbal. 

“Hey, gal.” Bone’s voice grated 
deep in his laryngeal resonator. “You 
love your Great-Grand-Pappy, don’t 
you? You come on over here.” The 
girls were silent and still in the face 
of the aged magnate’s confident order. 

“Go to your chambers, girls,” I 
said, in a moderate command-voice, 
and they left, like graceful robots. I 
irised the remote in my chairarm and 
keyed in light somnolence for both. 
Bone started to rise up out of the 
chaise, but then he made a clumsy 
gesture of dismissal, and sank back 
into the depths of the orthopedically 
responsive surfaces. 

“You gettin’ soft, Andy,” he grum- 
bled. “A general should ought to have 
better control over his troops.” It 
was a funny thing to say after such a 
prompt display of obedience to my 
command, but I knew what he really 
meant. 

“It’s for your own well-being, 
Bone.” 1 tried not to sound patroniz- 
ing. “Those girls are strong as tigers. 
They might have injured you if you 


had made any big moves on them.” 
This didn’t seem to satisfy him. 

“Are you tellin’ me you can’t con- 
trol ’em?” God, but the man was act- 
ing casually proprietary, even baiting- 
ly proprietarian. He was starting to 
piss me off. 

“I have total control over their in- 
teractions with me, because of the 
DNA interfacing. How they interact 
with strangers is another matter.” 

“Well, for the 25 million old Uni- 
ted States dollars 1 gave for that pair 
of factory females, I sure don’t feel 
like no stranger. And I never got to 
screw ’em, neither. I should have 
screwed ’em before 1 gave ’em to you. 
Broke ’em in right. You got to break 
women the way you break bosses.” 

“Hey, they’re my property. Bone, 
remember? You gave them to me be- 
cause I saved your trillionaire ass, as I 
remember you saying it.” I was feel- 
ing protective of the girls and terri- 
torial about my condo. 

“Now, don’t go gettin’ your hack- 
les up, Andy. I ain’t no Indian giver. 
I’m just used to having my way with 
young gals. I thought you and me and 
the two frisky fillies might have us a 
four-way orgy — you know, a real 
kwottra may-nodge. What say?” I was 
starting to shake my head, when the 
creaking old codger popped yet an- 
other tequila blatter, this time right 
into his corded carotid, and then he 
pa,ssed out, muttering, “Cheryl Tiegs 
and Christina Ferrare — I’ll go get 
them instead—” 


Menage ^ Super-Trois 


101 



A man of Pickens’s stature does 
not travel alone, or so I would have 
thought, though with a teleporter, he 
probably would not be in any danger. 
His burnished silver Benz hung in the 
stasis field outside the visoport, and 
as 1 went to see if there was a pilot or 
a bodyguard in the craft, a basketball- 
sized extremis robot (we called them 
Flying ParaMeds) egressed from it 
and set an azimuth straight for Bone, 
apparently activated by his uncons- 
ciousness. Spidery extremities tele- 
scoped from its surfaces as the robot 
landed on Bone’s chest, and, like fine 
calipers, the arms irised his tunic and 
ratcheted onto the rim of his life- 
systems bezel. His face was ashen, 
and it dawned on me that he might 
be in genuine extremis, in addition to 
being drunk. And then I thought. 
Hell, a man shouldn’t die just seconds 
after being rejected by a beautiful 
woman. Morbid or not, a man ought 
to die in the arms of at least one 
beautiful woman; ideally, conduited 
into her, and, or course, orgasm as 
the “sweet death” was a supremely 
apt metaphor. 

So 1 keyed the remote again, and 
summoned Mary Claire and Tiffany. I 
set their bezels at centile 80 HYPER- 
VIGILANCE and EMPATHY, and told 
them to stay close to their grcat- 
granddaddy, and to do anything to 
comfort him while I located his ex- 
ecutor. So, as the Flying ParaMed 
sphere shored up his vital signs, and 
the girls held his hands and whis- 


pered sweet assurances close in his 
ears, I got a hot-line computer flash 
over to Bone’s world offices in the 
Dallas Dome, and within minutes a 
sophisticated hospital ship was in the 
field beside the Benz, and real-life 
ParaMeds and physicians were attend- 
ing the stricken man. 

The executor was there also — a 
short, bald, nondescript-looking man 
of forty or so, with a timid facial ex- 
pression, and wearing a stock IBM 
dark blue suit, white shirt, and pais- 
ley cravat. Aside from his facial cast, 
he looked juri^rudential enough, and 
he was immediately taken with the 
girls, eyeing them almost hungrily, 
and paying only passing attention to 
the medical team and the victim. The 
team got Bone encased in an oxygen 
envelope, like a bug in amber, and 
floated him out and onto the ship. He 
looked waxen and gray and dead to 
me. The sphere was still affixed to his 
abdomen, and there was an intravene 
in his nose, and one in the carotid, 
where the tequila shooter had been 
just minutes before. The screen on 
the sphere was pulsing with patterns, 
but none of them had good Gaussian 
peaks, and I thought Bone must be at 
least clinically dead. 

Everybody left but the executor, 
whose name was Winfield Blackwell, 
and he couldn’t take his eyes off the 
girls, who were acting like the mo.st 
demure geisha. With a great effort, 
Blackwell turned his attention to me, 
extracting a depositional audile cube 


102 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



from his thoracic niche. With a little 
flourish, he placed it on my favorite 
stressed lucoid coffee table, and the 
device glowed tiny bright pulses as 
he .spoke. “We’ll keep this informal, 
General Dalton, though it is merely a 
formality — um. ” He blushed, realiz- 
ing he had made a self-canceling sen- 
tence, and looked at the girls as if 
their presence rendered him both in- 
articulate as well as blissful. “That is 
to say, 1 need a deposition, a brief ac- 
count of what happened this after- 
noon. 1 do not feel it necessary to 
summon the provost robots.” 

“Deposition has a decidedly legal- 
istic ring to it,” 1 said, and the cube 
sparked in response to my voice, “but 
I have no objection.” 

“I just love barristers,” Tiffany in- 
terrupted — inappropriately for her 
regimen, I thought, but then, .she was 
Ic.ss predictable than Maty Claire. She 
sat down on the chaise next to the 
executor, and gave him a look that 
might have turned any man into a pile 
of dumb, smiling jelly. 

“Barristers are wonderfully au- 
thoritarian,” Mary Claire chimed in, 
sitting close on his other side. “I do 
believe I love barristers best, and 
perhaps, stuntmen a distant second.” 
This was an overly candid remark for 
her to make, for Mary Claire was usu- 
ally reserved, within the parameters 
of her programs. 

“Do you now?” the executor 
beamed. “It happens that / love, above 
all, beautiful young maidens. Wherev- 


er did you come by these delightful 
angels. General? Or have you set them 
on me for a purpose?” I suppose that 
attorneys have to deal with strategic 
distractions of all kinds, but I hadn’t 
intended the girls as such, beyond my 
usual pleasure in watching them in- 
teract with strangers. Somehow they 
were acting overly operant, rather 
than responsive, but I decided not to 
change their settings. 

‘Mr. Pickens gave them to me, as 
it happens,” I said, “in appreciation 
of my role in averting the Germanic 
Wars. And no, I did not set them on 
you. They are charmii^ly interactive 
on their own.” The man looked huge- 
ly pleased. 

“And what are your names, my 
dual enchantresses?” he asked, set- 
tling back on the chaise and putting a 
tentative arm around their shoulders. 
I hoped the high empathy settings 
would discourage the girls from re- 
sisting this mild intrusion of their 
life-space. 

“I’m Tiffany Mitsu-Dalton, and this 
is my sister-surrogate, Mary Claire 
Mitsu-Dalton.” Tiffany tossed her head 
in that special way she had. It was 
indescribable, and breathtaking to 
behold. 

“Mitsubishi, ”1 put in. “Tiffany and 
Mary Claire were, ah, engineered at 
the Mitsubishi plant in Ann Arbor.” 
Tiffany looked at the man and licked 
her lips. “Yes. I am told that that one 
plant alone saved the entire Michigan 
economy—” 


Manage S Super-Trois 


103 



“The Illinois and Indiana econo- 
mies as well,” Mary Claire said bright- 
ly. “What those hordes of bowing lit- 
tle Nissan men spent on us was more 
than enough to turn the tide.” 

“Yes. We’re the world’s two most 
expensive Barbie dolls,” Tiffany gig- 
gled. “And Andy here — Brigadier 
Andrew — is our very own Ken.” 

“The brigadier is a fortunate man 
indeed,” Blackwell began, and then 
he looked very uncool and unable to 
continue. “Ah, General. Either I mu.st 
forgo my duties, and yield to the 
power of these lovely girls, or—” 

“We’ll leave,” Mary Claire .said, 
and she and Tiffany got up, like sleek 
leopards in playful estrous postures. 
Sometimes 1 wondered if I really con- 
trolled them. 

“But aren’t we supposed to give 
depositions, too?” Tiffany was bru.sh- 
ing her ecru-mesh shift with her 
hands, and Blackwell was slack-faced 
and gaping. The girls’ pheromonal 
auras were strong, and I liked that, 
though it was contextually distract- 
ing. I liked high copulin counts in any 
context. 

“Did either of you witness Mr. 
Pickens’s attack?” the executor asked. 

“No,” Mary Claire answered him. 
“Andy sent us to our room just before 
it happened.” He looked interested 
and a bit more serious. 

“Were there, um, extenuating cir- 
cumstances? Did either of you do any- 
thing to precipitate—” 

“Quite the contary,” I said em- 


phatically. “1 had the girls leave be- 
cause the old man wanted to have sex 
with them. He had had several tequila 
shots and was becoming offensive. 
The girls would have resisted his ad- 
vances, and might have injured him. I 
should tell you that Mary Claire and 
Tiffany have kinetic fulcrum im- 
plants that give them great physical 
strength.” 

“And Tiffany and I are pair-bonded 
to Andy,” Mary Claire said, sounding 
proud and protective and .sexy all at 
once. “We could never be intimate 
with anyone eLse.” Now Blackwell 
looked at the girls more appraisingly, 
and turned crestfallen. I think he may 
have thought them to be secret hook- 
ers, and me maybe a rich closet pimp. 

‘“Very well,” he said, and his voice 
was a bit snobby and affected. “My 
next question is an important one: 
Did Mister Pickens touch either of 
you in an intimate manner?” The man’s 
old-style wristwatch beeper emitted 
a 120-cycle sound, and he pressed 
the device close to his ear. After a 
few seconds he acknowledged the 
transmi.ssion, and shifted the deposi- 
tional cube, as if he were stalling for 
time. Finally he said, “Mr. Pickens is 
dead. I am sorry to say.” But he didn’t 
.seem sorry — he seemed relieved. 
“My question is therefore of the ut- 
most importance: Was Mr. Pickens 
engaged in any degree of excitatory 
sexual foreplay immediately preced- 
ing his attack?” Mary Claire stooped 
to arrange some orchids in a va.se. 


104 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



and Tiffany rubbed her flanks and 
tossed her head. 

“He was stroking my thighs,” she 
said. 

“And did you, um, encourage him?” 

“Heavens, no. The old man told 
me he was my great-grandfather, and 
I thought it proper to let him touch 
me, but then he got overly familiar, 
and I felt offended. That’s when An- 
drew asked Mary Claire and me to 
leave the room.” The executor sud- 
denly deactivated the cube, like a 
chess judge hitting a timer. 

“General, is this room equipped 
with, um, documentary video? Was 
Mr. Picken’s, um, visit, recorded?” 

“Affirmative to both questions. The 
video system is activated by a DNA 
field not interfacing with our domes- 
tic, ah, menage.” 

“Which means everybody except 
the three of us,” Tiffany said, touch- 
ing the man’s thigh with one beauti- 
fully manicured fingernail. “We’re all 
on camera at this moment.” She 
looked at one of the camera lenses 
and waved. 

“May I watch the tape of Mr. Pick- 
ens’s visit, at your convenience?” 

“I don’t see why not. Say, what’s 
this all about?” 

“I bet 1 know,” Mary Claire said. 
“And so does Tiffany.” 

“Well, I’m just a retired old war- 
borse,” I said. “Tell me the big secret.” 

Instead of coming to me, Mary 
Claire went to Blackwell, and whis- 
pered in his ear. Even in the myste- 


rious context of the moment, the 
girls were acting like playful kittens, 
and the air was sparkling with their 
scents. Blackwell’s nostrils flared in 
the richness of Mary Claire’s close 
proximity, and then he smiled and 
nodded. Tiffany came to me in a 
panthery-graceful glide, sat on my 
lap, wreathed her perfect arms around 
my neck, and whispered in my ear. 
And I smiled and nodded. She looked 
into my eyes, and, God, my eyeballs 
rattled in their sockets. There were 
times when I felt Tiffany could in- 
duce a spontaneous orgasm in me 
with her eye contact alone. Then the 
four of us looked at each other in si- 
lence. I thought it proper for Black- 
well to speak first. 

“Your beautiful wards are correct, 
it seems,” he began. “Mr. Pickens was 
a grand eccentric, and, among other 
things, he relished the company of 
young girls. His will specifies gener- 
ous bequests to the female who hap- 
pened to be with him in extremis. 
Contingent on my review of the tape, 
it appears that Miss Tiffany will be a 
beneficiary.” 

“That’s just marvy," Tiffany piped. 
“I’m going to buy Andrew something 
just shamelessly expensive. Let me 
think. Mary Claire, does Andrew have 
any more of those Bergdorf boxers? 
You know, the ones with the brigadi- 
er star by the fly?” Blackwell smiled 
at me, a Cheshire smile, and I laughed, 
tolerantly. 

“We’ll have to look and see,” Mary 


Manage ^ Super*Trois 


105 



Claire said. “But maybe he’d like one 
of those new pneumoplast femmes de 
voyage — say, the fifteen-thousand- 
dollar model — Angie, I believe she is 
called, and made by Nakajima, no 
less.” 

“We’re his *12 million models,” 
Tiffany said. “He’d be disappointed 
with an inflatable woman.” Blackwell’s 
pupils were dilated, his face was 
flushed, and despite the fact that his 
role was ostensibly serious, or at least 
restrained, he seemed mesmerized 
by my two angels, and unconcerned 
over the death of his client. There 
was surely incongruity on all sides; 
the man responsible for my godlike 
stature in life had died in my house, 
and no one seemed to care. Then I 
realized that Blackwell was probably 
rejoicing over the oppressive old mag- 
nate’s death, and that Mary Claire and 
Tiffany, being strangers to him, had 
no reason to grieve; indeed. Tiffany 
had good reason to rejoice. It was 
me. General Andy, who felt some 
sympathy for Bone, for he had been 
very old and full of life-support pros- 
theses, and I was just beginning to 
feel the first subtle heraldings of the 
aging process. Fifty years of the earth’s 
gravity, and all the cumulative, fuel- 
fed metabolizing and cell dividing 
within my body had made me aware 
of my mortality, even as my two an- 
gelic wards reinforced my polar feel- 
ings of immortality. And so I said 
something light, too. 

“The stars on some of my shorts 


are threadbare, my lovelies, but an in- 
flatable woman! That would be a gag 
gift of the first order.” 

“Seriously, for a moment.” Tiffany 
surprised me yet again. “We may be 
confusing contiguity with causality 
here. Mr. Pickens may have been fee- 
lin ’ my laigs up, as he put it, and he 
may have been stricken thirty seconds 
later, but that doesn’t make me re- 
sponsible for his death. I do not wish 
to be on record as the agent of his 
demise.” 

“The tequila blatter he shot in his 
carotid was the obvious cause,” I 
reassured her. “I’d take a bet that was 
the proximal cause. But, my dear, the 
will does seem to want to tag you as 
the distal cause.” 

The executor said, “Thankfully, 
we need not deal with the concept of 
legal culpability here. Miss Tiffany. 
Even as a barrister, I find affixation of 
blame an invidious subject, though I 
must deal with it all the time. Let me 
just tell you that if Mr. Pickens had 
been stricken at Hollywood and Vine 
at high noon, and a malodorous bag 
lady had tried mouth-to-mouth resus- 
citation on him, she would have been 
the beneficiary, capricious as it may 
seem.” He seemed pleased with his 
crude little example, and now a faint 
predatory look eased into his expres- 
sion. “In any case, I should much 
prefer dealing with lovely ladies such 
as surround me now.” He was build- 
ing up to something, and the girls 
were hypervigilant. “And so, in my 


106 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



role as trustee of the several millions 
to be awarded in this case, 1 think it 
only fair that I be awarded some con- 
jugal access to Miss--” 1 guess he was 
going to say “Tiffany,” but instead he 
said something like “AARRGH!” and 
pitched forward onto the resilent shag 
mesh of the deck. 

Tiffany must have been reading 
his mind, and I knew immediately 
what she had done to him: she had 
vectored in a stunbolt, a high-voltage, 
low-amperage shock, to his rib box; a 
true proximal cause of great thoracic 
pain, excruciatingly related to body 
position and respiration, and perfect- 
ly replicating the viral attack symp- 
tomatology known as “Devil’s Grip.” 
I guess I should have known the man 
would make his move sooner or later, 
and, while what Tiffany did to him 
might be disproportionate to the of- 
fense, it beat the hell out of her using 
her kinetic implant on him. What she 
had effected was a simulated attack 
of a viral condition known since the 
1880s, and very appropriately titled. 
Who can know the wiles and the 
powers of a suprahuman female? 1 do 
and 1 don’t. 

“Why, whatever is the matter, 
Winfield, dear?” Mary Claire cooed to 
him, as he lay with his shiny bald 
head in her lap. She bent to whisper 
the same kinds of assurances in his 
ear that she had so recently whis- 
pered to his deceased client, while 
Tiffany put her perfect lips to his 
temple “tofsee if you’re feverish,” she 


said. Even in his pain he looked bliss- 
ful, there in the arms of the girls. But 
Tiffany wasn’t finished. She loosened 
his cravat, defluxed the vertical ve- 
lour facing of his tunic (rather un- 
IBM-like, 1 thought), and gently part- 
ed it, exposing his life -systems bezel. 
And as she did so, her movements 
were those of a lover, not a minister- 
ing angel of mercy. She lowered her 
face to examine the bezel, and her 
movements were stunningly like those 
of a lover hovering to kiss the navel as 
a prelude to kissing the genitals. 

“Does your bezel take standard 
diagnostic templates?” she asked him 
in a soft voice, and she might just as 
well have been asking him if his pis- 
ton would fit in her cylinder. He 
nodded, smiled, and closed his eyes, 
as Mary Claire stroked the sides of his 
face. 1 knew Tiffany’s plan (or thought 
1 did), so 1 got the first-aid cassette 
from the console, extracted a Blue 
Cross energic-diagnostic template, 
and handed it to her. She gave me a 
beautifully knowing look. She fitted 
the template, lovingly, down into the 
combinatory serrates in the face of 
the bezel, and keyed in the probes. In 
just thirty seconds the tiny tape ex- 
truded, and she removed it and handed 
it to me. I put it in the viewer, and it 
read: 

VIRAL NEURALGIA/DEVIL S GRIP (ARCHAIC ) 

BLUE CROSS CODE 338 41 104110 

TREATMENT: 1 20 MG DARVOCET/GENERIC 

BED REST/SEXUAL ABSTINENCE 


Manage k Super-Trots 


107 



Tiffany touched the painkiller pel- 
let to Blackwell’s lips, like a courte- 
san feeding an emperor a grape, and 
Mary Claire had him take it with a 
thimbleful of cognac. “When I die,” 
he whispered to them, “I want it to 
be like this.” I sent him home in the 
Benz. I had never seen a man in pain 
happier. 

The inquest on T. Bone Pickens 
III was routine, and we did not have 
to attend. The cause of death was 
given as massive cardiac arrest, se- 
condary alcoholic anoxia, and tertiary 
testosteronic surge. Tiffany was 
awarded $112.8 million new United 
States dollar-credits, and said that 
Mary Claire and 1 could have as much 
of it as we wanted. By God, generosity 
may be the finest trait for a woman to 
have! And, true to her word. Tiffany 
bought me four dozen pairs of shame- 
lessly expensive Bergdorf boxers, each 
set emblazoned with the single silver 
star of my rank. 

Instead of the gag-gift inflatable 
woman, Mary Claire presented me 
with four dozen matching Bergdorf 
T-shirts, each emblazoned with a ho- 
lographic image of my face, flanked 


by images of herself and Tiffany, and, 
underneath, the entablature: A/^AGE 
A SUPER-TROIS. Then they wanted 
me to strip on the spot and model the 
new underwear for them. Tiffany 
pinched me on the dextral gluteus as 
I was standing on one leg, stepping 
into the sinistral side of the one-star, 
command-level boxers. I must re- 
member to triple-check her pro- 
gramming one day. It often suggests a 
damnably unnatural spontaneity, no 
less fresh and charming, but lacking 
in deference to my rank. Then 1 
thought, Jesus Christ at The War Col- 
lege, if she could induce a testoste- 
ronic surge in a ninety-seven-year-old 
man, .she must be able to overide her 
programming. 

Everything 1 do reinforces my god- 
like powers. And, since 1 am God, I 
think I will adjust my angels’ phe- 
romonal clouds, to, say, centile 95, 
and fly with them over to Catalina for 
the weekend. Heaven can wait. Hey, 
they’re dancing around me and sing- 
ing. “. . . He is the Very Model of a 
Modern Briggy General. . . .” God, I 
love bio-human females. 



108 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



Installment 23: In Which Premoni- 
tions of the Future Lie in Wait to 
Swallow Shadows of the Past 



I’m at 30,000 feet aboard United 
flight 104, on my way to speak at a 
seminar on the creation of the uni- 
verse ( about which, you may be cer- 
tain, I know even less than you) in 
company with Sir Fred Hoyle and 
Robert Jastrow at the University of 
Rochester; and as fear of making a to- 
tal buffoon of myself has rendered me 
tabula rasa on the subject, preclud- 
ing preparation of salient remarks, 
my mind is ratlike scurrying toward 
anything hut the creation of the uni- 
verse, so whatthehell, why don’t I 
write this overdue column instead; 
and mo.st of all I’m thinking, mostly, 
about my friend Walter Koenig who 
is not speaking to me at the moment. 
My friend Walter is a writer of 
.screenplays, a fine teacher of acting, 
a collector of Big Little Books, and an 
actor who, for twenty years, has as- 
sayed the role of En,sign (now Lt.- 
Commander) Chekov on a television 
series, and in a quartet of motion pic- 
tures, gcnerically known as Star Trek. 
A series and films with which many of 
you may be familiar. (I say may he 
familiar becau.se, of late, things have 
gotten even worse than I’d imagined 
them to be, cultural memorywise. I 
mentioned all-chocolate Necco 
Wafers to a bunch of people in their 
early twenties the other day, and they 
looked at me blankly. That, added to 

Copyright © hv The Kilimanjaro Corporation. 

Harlan Ellison's Watching 109 



the fact that on my Hour 25 radio 
show, during an interview with the 
talented artist Phil Foglio, he admit- 
ted he’d heard the phrase “civil rights” 
but didn’t really know what the Civil 
Rights Act of 1964 alluded to, has 
given me pause. Thus have the Sixties 
and their history been flensed from 
tbe world in tbe minds of tho.se under 
forty. .So 1 take nothing for granted 
any more. ) 

Now Walter being pissed at me 
may not, at First blush, seem to be fit 
fodder for philippic, but the reason 
he’s pissed at me, the shadowy philo- 
.sophical subtext of our minor con- 
tretemps, ties in with a few random 
thoughts about the new film STAR 
TREK IV: The Voyage Home (Para- 
mount), which Walter arranged for 
me to see a few weeks ago, as I fly 
overhead writing this. 

A momentary pau.se. A .short while 
ago I promised you a long column 
analyzing and praising the films that 
David Cronenberg has directed. I’m 
working on it. Mr. Cronenberg has 
made available to me ca.ssettes of his 
earliest, most-difficult-to-locate films 
{Stereo, made when he was 26 years 
old; Crimes of the Future from 1970; 
The Parasite Murders — which you 
may know cither as Shivers or They 
Came From Within — and the uncut 
version of The Brood), and 1 am go- 
ing at this cs.say with care and mea- 
sured rea.son. It will be along shortly. 
La.st time I ventured some thoughts 
on the coloring of films. Since that 


column — which has caused some 
small stir in the film community-, in- 
cluding a .spirited essay of response 
even before my column saw print, 
from screenwriter/director Nicholas 
Meyer, in the L.A. Times — I have 
learned of even more horrifying tech- 
nology about to be brought to bear 
on classic films now in the clutches 
of Ted Turner, and 1 am amassing da- 
ta on same with director Joe Dante, 
in preparation for a follow-up column. 
That one should blow your socks off, 
and I expect if ail goes well it will be 
my next installment. I haven’t lost my 
place, as you might have suspicioned; 
1 am simply trying to develop a sense 
of punctiliousness in my declining 
years. I tell you this to forestall 
kvetching. 

So Walter isn’t speaking to me. 

That isn’t unusual. Since the even- 
ing in 1963 when 1 met Walter on the 
Universal Studios backlot “New York 
street” where the Alfred Hitchcock 
Hour was filming my “Memo from 
Purgatory” teleplay, he has sent me 
to Coventry many times, occasionally 
even for just cause. I am not permit- 
ted to get angry with Walter, that 
isn’t in the contract; so I am not 
pissed at W'alter; but since I don’t de- 
.serve his animus this time, I have de- 
cided to wait until he apologizes for 
being such a poop. Nonetheless, the 
circumstances by which this cranki- 
ness developed, and the subtext which 
is more than slightly intriguing, prove 
germane to a theory about Star Trek 


110 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



that I’ve worked out exhaustively 
since I first thought of it way back, oh 
an hour ago, will this flight never 
end?!? 

Presumably because I asked for 
$500,000 to write the screenplay of 
Star Trek /Vwhen I met with Leonard 
Nimoy and Harve Bennett on Friday, 
January 25th, 1985 — on the grounds 
that if I had to write for Shatner, if 1 
had to write in a part for Eddie 
Murphy, if I would have to face the 
imbroglio of others wanting to share 
screen credit with me, if I was going 
to have to put up with the tsuriss I 
knew would be attendant on any in- 
volvement with Paramount and its 
peculiar attitude toward the Star Trek 
films, I would have to be compensat- 
ed in heavy balance — a demand that 
was greeted first with disbelief, then 
consternation, then with disdain, and 
finally with utter rejection (as sane a 
decision as ever Paramount made ), I 
was never invited to a pre-release 
screening of the movie. 

1 mentioned having been “over- 
looked” during a conversation with 
Walter, and he thereafter broke his 
hump getting me comped into the 
Cinerama Dome. Not an easy thing to 
do. 

A day or .so later, when I called 
Walter to thank him for his efforts, I 
made some casual remarks about my 
reaction to the film — which were 
positive — not foamingly laudatory, 
but positive, about which more in a 
moment — but the main reason I’d 


called was to urge him to get into the 
queue for script assignments on the 
newly-proposed return of Star Trek 
as a television series for syndication, 
with an all-new cast. We talked about 
that for a few minutes and then, with 
an edge in his voice, Walter said, 
“Okay, so what did you think of my 
performance?” 

For an instant 1 was thrown off- 
balance. The subject had been 
changed without warning. And 1 an- 
swered quickly, with what 1 consider 
honesty and candor, “It was fine. I 
.said I thought it was the best ensem- 
ble work from the regulars that I’d 
seen in any of the four films, remem- 
ber? They didn’t give you quite as 
much to do in this one as they did in 
Star Trek //, but it was a lot more 
onscreen time than you got in the 
first or third films. And what you did, 
I liked. 'You know. You did Chekov, 
and you did him just fine.” 

Walter’s anger was instant. “Don’t 
break your back straining yourself!” I 
fumfuh’ed, not understanding why he 
was so hot, and only made matters 
worse (apparently) by saying, “Come 
on, Walter, I’m not bullshitting you. 
It was fine. 1 mean, they don’t really 
give you Gielgud or Olivier material 
to play . . . what you were given you 
did very well, indeed.” Which only 
raised his ire the more. And he 
snapped my head off that he was 
through discussing it. and I said we 
can talk about it more later, if you 
like, and Walter snarled, “Yeah, sure,” 


Harlan Ellison's Watching 


111 



or bit-off words to that effect, and he 
hung up on me; and we haven’t talked 
since, which is a while ago; and 1 
don’t like having Walter pissed at me, 
but there’s not much 1 can do about 
it this time till he cools down and 
chooses to honor my honestly- 
delivered remarks. 

Which w'ould be, taken at face 
value, merely the recounting of an 
unfortunate misunderstanding be- 
tween long-time chums, were it not 
that (upon reflection born of gloom) 
what 1 said to Walter emerges from a 
response to the totality of the Star 
Trek phenomenon. Which is, at last, 
the proper fodder for this column. 

It is no secret that for many years I 
was not exactly the biggest booster 
of ST. Having been in at the begin- 
ning before the beginning of the ser- 
ies, having been one of the first wri- 
ters hired to write the show, 1 was 
w'ildly enthusiastic about the .series 
as Gene Roddenberry had initially 
conceived it. ( In fact, at the very first 
Nebula Awards banquet of the Science 
Fiction Writers of America, which I 
.set up at the Tail O’ The Cock here in 
Los Angeles, 1 arranged for a pre- 
debut .screening of the pilot segment. ) 
The show debuted on September 8th, 
1966 and by December it was in 
trouble with NBC. The NieLsens were 
very low, and Gene asked me if there 
was anything 1 could do to get the 
popularity the show was experienc- 
ing in .science fiction circles conveyed 
to the network. 1 .set up “The Com- 


mittee” and using the facilities of De- 
silu Studios, 1 .sent out five thousand 
letters of appeal to fandom, urging 
the viewers to inundate NBC with 
demands that the show be kept on 
the air. (The original of that letter, 
seen here for the first time in print, is 
reproduced as a sidebar courtesy of 
The Noble Ferman Editors. ) 

And so it was with heavy heart 
that 1 fell away, as it were. 1 had my 
thorny problems with Gene over “The 
City on the Edge of Forever,” about 
which I’ve written elsewhere; and af- 
ter my segment aired 1 divorced my- 
self from ST with a passion that fre- 
quently slopped over into meanspirit- 
edne.ss. When the first film came out 
in 1979, I wrote a long and bruising 
review that resulted in fannish ani- 
mus up to and well past the egging of 
my home. This, despite the fact that 
by now everyone agrees Star Trek — 
The Motion Picture was a dismal piece 
of business. 

1 was not much more impressed 
with ST as the subject for full-length 
features when STll was released in 
1982. chiefly because Paramount 
thought it could amortize some of 
the .sets and recoup their losses on 
the first flick. Or if not losses, at least 
make a few bucks on the residue. 

The Search for Spock in 1984 
seemed to me a decent piece of work, 
and 1 said .so in print. But by that time 
ST had already been an animated car- 
toon series, and the original shows 
were a vast moneymaking machine 


T12 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 




Harlan Ellison’s Watching 


113 





of the bunch, a film that capitalizes 
on what the series did best when it 
was at the peak of its limited form. It 
is a film about the creW, who have 
become family for millions of people 
around the world, and it is filled with 
humanity, with caring, and with sim- 
ple, uncomplicated elements of de- 
cency and responsibility. It eschews 
almost all of the jiggery-pokery of ab- 
struse theology, gimcrack hardware, 
imbecile space battles and embarass- 
ingly sophomoric “message” philoso- 
phy to present an uncomplicated sto- 
ry of the clock ticking down to doom 
while decent people struggle to find 
a timely and humane solution. 

While 1 have my Writers Guild of 
America member reservations about 
the propriety of a solo credit that 
reads a Leonard nimoy film for the 
man’s second directorial outing, and 
while 1 still see the hideous thumb- 
print of Bill Shatner’s demand for 
more and more domination of scene 
after scene, 1 recommend this film to 
those few of you who may have missed 
it. It is a good movie, and the best 
presentation yet of all of the regular 
cast members — except for Nichelle 
and George, who caught the short 
end of the script this time — and is, 
at last, a ST venture at full length that 
no one who loves movies can carp 
about. 

But as the film does well in theat- 
ers, and as the new series is prepared 
for nationwide syndication, as the 
fast -food joints market their ST glasses 


and the K-Marts hawk their ST lunch 
boxes, we must recognize that a mir- 
acle has been passed. 

Star Trek has, at last, become more 
than an underground fetish; it has 
surpassed the mingy goal of networks 
and studios for a five-season run; it 
has gone beyond an addiction that 
needs a filmic fix every two or three 
years; it is larger than just a tv/movie 
staple, like the boring James Bond 
things that come to us as regularly as 
summer colds. It has absorbed its 
own legend and hewn a niche in pos- 
terity against all odds. 

The series had serious flaws, tak- 
en as a whole. The studio and the 
network were never comfortable with 
it, and did little to preserve it. The 
first two films were, at best, cannon 
fodder. Its greatest strength, the sev- 
en or eight fine actors who comprise 
the crew of the Enterprise — with 
the exceptions, of course, of Shatner 
and Nimoy — have been used badly 
and treated on too many occasions as 
spear-carriers for name guest actors 
or special effects trickery. The pand- 
ering to trekkies, trekists, trekkers 
and trekoids has been shameless, to 
the detriment of chance-taking and 
plots that ventured farther afield. 

De.spite all that. Star Trek has held 
on. It has clawed its way out of the 
genre category to become a universal 
part of the American cultural scene. 
And Star Trek /V( about whose plot I 
need say nothing for you have either 
seen it and know it, or haven’t seen it 


114 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



and don’t need me to spoil it) is the 
first light on St’s road into the future. 
Star Trek is now a given. It has swal- 
lowed the inadequacies of its past, 
and now can do no wrong. The new 
series, and however many full-length 
films there may be, are now assured 
of an unstinting affection usually 
reserved for Lindberghs or 
Rutans&Yeagers. It is a seamless 
whole, a household word, the speak- 
ing of whose title conjures memories 
and an all-encompassing warmth for 
several generations who have grown 
up with these space adventurers. Like 
Tarzan and Robin Hood and Sherlock 
Holmes, like Mickey Mouse and Su- 
perman and Hamlet, they arc forever. 
Or as close to forever as a nation 
rushing toward total illiteracy can 
proffer. 

Thus, when Walter asked me how 
he had performed in this latest icon 
of the legend, my re.sponse was as de 
facto as that of the ballerina in The 
Red Shoes who, when asked by the 
impressario, “Why must you dance?” 
replied almost without thinking, “Why 
must you breathe?” 

1 am guilty of forgetting that Walter 
is, among his many other personas, an 
actor. And actors need to hear if they 
did the acting well or badly. 1 am 
guilty of thinking (for the first time, 
and without recognizing the shift in 




my own perceptions) of Chekov as 
part of a gestalt, and a ge.stalt that 
worked so wonderfully well for me, 
for the first time, that I overlooked 
Walter’s need as a human being to be 
singled out. 

1 am guilty of consigning Walter 
Koenig to the seamless oneness of 
the Star Trek mythos. If a brick had 
asked me how well it had performed 
as a brick, 1 would have said, “Your 
wall holds up the roof splendidly.” 
That is at once ennobling him and 
demeaning him. But until I said it, 
and until 1 worried the repercussions 
of having said it, 1 did not understand 
that the miracle had been pas.sed. and 
that Star Trek had become something 
about which ordinary criticism could 
not be ventured, at risk of being 
beside-the-point or redundant. 

Like the politician whose nobility 
in high office blots out all the pi- 
cayune malfeasances on the way to 
investiture as icon, ST has eaten its 
past and has lit its way into the annals 
of Art that is beyond Entertainment. 

That 1 find myself saying ail this, 
after more than twenty years, .sur- 
prises me as much as you. 

Now if Koenig will just lighten up, 
perhaps 1 can concentrate on the 
creation of the universe, and other 
less knotty problems, such as when 
the hell will this damned jet land!?! 


Harlan Ellison’s Watching 


115 



Paul Lake is a poet who has appeared widely in such magazines 
as The New Republic and the Partisan Review, in addition to 
teaching at Arkansas Tech University. He writes that “Rat Boy” 
is his first attempt at writing speculative fiction. It is a grisly 
little masterpiece of the macabre that will have you avoiding 
mirrors like the plague. 


Rat Boy 


BY 

PAUL LAKE 

I t began after Robert arrived in 
Mr. Wilkerson’s fifth grade class in 
Deerfield Elementary during the third 
week of fall term back in Pennsylvania. 

Robert. Not Bob or Bobby like any 
normal fifth grader. That’s the one 
thing he made clear right away. And 
he looked like a Robert, too — about 
three inches taller than any of the 
other boys and at least thirty pounds 
heavier, which in the fifth grade is 
about the same as the difference be- 
tween a featherweight and a light 
heavyweight in boxing. He always 
wore horizontally striped shirts, 
which made him look even chubbier, 
and his hair looked like it hadn’t seen 
a brush since the day he was born. 

For the first two weeks after his 
late arrival, he hardly spoke, except 
for an occasional sarcasm, like “So 
what?” or “Yeah, that’s what you 
think,” uttered with an insolent curl 


of the lip and a sidelong glance calcu- 
lated to check whoever had made the 
offending remark. Not clever sar- 
casms, but, backed by his contemp- 
tuous sneer, they were intimidating 
to fifth graders who supposed they 
displayed a worldliness beyond the 
rest of us. We were all quietly im- 
pressed. People always are by con- 
tempt. 

Robert spent those first two weeks 
sizing the situation up before he de- 
cided on the right course to pursue 
— and as soon as he'd gathered 
enough intelligence, he made his 
move. 

Our desks were arranged in little 
rectangles of six desks, three on each 
side facing each other. As fate would 
have it — or by Robert’s mysterious 
design — he wound up sitting direct- 
ly across from Barbara June, a tall girl 
from somewhere in the South who 


116 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



stood a head taller than anybody else 
in class. Barbara June wore horn-rim- 
med glasses and looked the part of a 
straight A student — ver>’ shy and 
quiet, though on the playground she 
could outrun any of us, boys includ- 
ed. And when she had a mind to, she 
could play softball with the boys and 
more than hold her own. Her quiet- 
ness and shyness made her seem older 
than the rest of us, an impression 
strengthened by her height and her 
seriousness. I suppose that’s why Rob- 
ert decided to make his own impres- 
sion by starting on her. 

He looked up from under his 
greasy bangs at her one day during 
handwriting exercises and said loud- 
ly enough for everyone to hear, “Hey, 
beanpole, how’d ya like a coconut- 
butt?’’ 

She answered innocently, “What’s 
that?” not sure what to expect. 

“You’ll find out soon enough,” he 
chuckled, then bent back to his 
scrawl, smiling to himself 

Wilkerson was out of the room. As 
usual. He’d often leave for forty-five 
minutes at a stretch without telling 
the class where he was going, and as 
long as he didn’t make us do any 
work, we weren’t going to ask any 
questions. I don’t know if he sat in 
the john smoking cigarettes or, what 
was more likely, went down the hall 
to talk to some of the women teachers 
who were always leaning in their 
doorways. Wilkerson was tall and sin- 
gle and not bad-looking — and young. 


1 guess — kids never can tell at that 
age. And since there were only about 
two male teachers in the whole 
school, I guess he was considered a 
kind of exotic rarity by the younger 
women. 1 suspect it was the latter be- 
cause we’d often see him leaning in 
the doorways of the women teachers 
between classes, looking down at 
them and smiling while they flirted 
up at him. Either way, a certain deco- 
rum prevailed in our classroom dur- 
ing his absences; no one talked or 
caused any kind of commotion. We 
wanted to keep things just the way 
they were. 

Wilkerson had been gone about a 
half hour when Robert stood up from 
his desk, pencil in hand, and walked 
to the pencil sharpener. On his way 
back, he detoured so that he passed 
behind Barbara June’s desk. She was 
still bent over her neatly penned pa- 
per, when the room grew silent and 
Robert stood directly behind her. 
Hearing the silence, she sat straight 
up in her chair. Then, without a word 
of warning, Robert pitched forward, 
cracking his head into the back of her 
skull, hitting his own head at the 
point just above his forehead where 
the skull is hardest and least vulnera- 
ble, like the point of a hard-boiled 
egg, and cracking her soundly on the 
softer, rounder part of the skull at the 
back of the head. When their heads 
hit, it sounded like a melon being 
thumped by a log. A split second lat- 
er, Barbara’s eyes went crossed and 


Rat Boy 


117 



rolled back inside her head, then her 
head fell forward onto her desktop. 

She was out for about ten seconds 
before her eyes opened, still crossed 
like a comic drunk’s. By that time, 
Robert was back in his chair, smiling 
directly at her while the whole class 
sat in stunned silence. Literally, I 
don’t think she ever even knew what 
hit her. She rubbed the back of her 
head with one hand, and her face 
flushed with embarrassment and an- 
ger, though 1 don’t think she really 
knew what had happened. But Rob- 
ert’s malicious smiling at her must 
have given her a pretty good idea. 

She started to say something two 
or three times, but finally just rubbed 
her head with one hand and asked, 
“What happened?” When Robert burst 
out laughing, something happened to 
the rest of us and we burst out laugh- 
ing, too — mostly at the sheer outrag- 
eousness of a boy knocking a girl out 
with his own head in the middle of 
class. Most of the other boys thought 
that was about the cleverest and most 
daring thing they’d ever seen, and 
went out of their way to show Robert 
their friendship and admiration from 
then on. And having succes.sfully es- 
tablished his own undisputed super- 
iority as he’d planned, Robert was on- 
ly too glad to accept. The little bas- 
tard. 

It wasn’t long after that when he 
noticed me. It must have been my shy- 
ness or the fact that I wore glasses 
then or a combination of both, but 


before long, he began to single me 
out for his special attentions. 

“Hey, Four Eyes,” he asked one 
day when Wilkerson was out of the 
room and we were all standing in line 
— fifteen minutes early — to go to 
lunch, “what’s that on the ceiling?” 

When I looked up to where he 
was pointing, he hit me in the Adam’s 
apple with a sudden karate chop that 
cut off my wind. The front of my 
throat, for two terrifying seconds, felt 
as if it had been welded to the back, 
and my stomach lurched during the 
brief interval like a small boat caught 
between waves. 

Even if 1 had had the presence of 
mind to — and had been able to 
breathe — I probably wouldn’t have 
tried to hit the monster back. Two 
days earlier I’d seen him pick up one 
of the more intrepid boys by the arm- 
pits and run him crashing into a wall 
ten feet away. Robert’s belly smacked 
into the smaller boy’s belly and sand- 
wiched him flat against the wall. When 
Robert backed away, he released the 
boy and let him collapse breathless 
to the floor. “You ought to be more 
careful where you’re going,” he crack- 
ed to the .semicircle of boys that had 
come to watch. “You could get hurt 
like that.” That old line worked its 
charm, and they all laughed right on 
cue, though a little nervously as the 
boy took a long time to get to his feet. 

Me, Robert took a special dislik- 
ing to. 

Take recess, for instance. On the 


118 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



softball field during our hour or so 
on the playground each day, Robert 
was invariably one of the two team 
captains. The other team captain 
would be whoever was Robert’s cur- 
rent lieutenant off the ball field that 
week, and somehow always possessed 
a sixth sense for whom to pick and 
whom not to pick in order to please 
the little martinet. Though 1 was a 
better than average ballplayer, they 
took a sadistic delight in arranging 
for me to always be the last one 
chosen for either team, holding back 
grins as they pretended to choose be- 
tween me and the odd assortment of 
runts and incompetents and sissys at 
the bottom of the athletic pecking 
order. My humiliation as 1 stood there 
day after day on the sidelines in the 
hot sun waiting to hear my name — 
the screams of the girls echoing across 
the dusty playground to where we 
huddled in opposing camps — well, 
it was indescribable. 

Inevitably, since we played on op- 
posite teams, something would hap- 
pen to give Robert the excuse to pin 
me down in the dirt and torment me. 
If he were playing second base and 1 
hit a double, 1 could slide safely into 
second base by seven feet and he'd 
call, “Out!” in a loud, brassy voice 
that brooked no argument. When I 
disputed the call, he’d sneer, “Are 
you calling me a liar. Four Eyes?” and 
knock me down before 1 could an- 
swer. Then he’d sit on my chest with 
my arms pinned down flat by his fat 


knees and say, “Because if you’re call- 
ing me a liar, Four Eyes, I hate to 
think of what 1 might do to you.” Ev- 
ery few seconds throughout the fol- 
lowing interrogation, he’d bounce his 
fat buttocks on my stomach for em- 
phasis, knocking the wind out of me 
and making my ribs feel as if they 
were about to splinter. 

Then, when he’d worked himself 
into a demonic rage, he’d press his 
hate -purpled face within six inches 
of mine and hiss, “You know what I’d 
really like to do to you. Four Eyes? 
You know what I’d really like to do? 
I’d like to jump up and down on your 
face. Right on your face.” And then, 
with horrible emphasis and spraying 
spittle in my face in his fury, he’d add, 
“With spikes on my shoes. With spikes 
on.” 

He’d be possessed when he said 
that kind of stuff. I’d have to lie there 
out of breath and aching and wait for 
his fury to spend itself before he’d let 
me up. None of the other boys dared 
to intervene. They all must have 
thought. There but for the grace of 
God. All they had to do was to think 
of poor Jerry Kennedy, who had made 
the mistake of telling his parents or 
Wilkerson or somebody about some- 
thing Robert had done to him, be- 
cau.se one day during recess on a day 
when Robert had had to go to the 
principal’s office, Robert sneaked up 
behind Jerry Kennedy and got him in 
a choke hold. That’s the kind of thing 
Robert specialized in, the really terri- 


Rat Boy 


119 



lying stuff. Robert held Jerry gasping 
and thrashing helplessly in that choke 
hold till he blacked out, and then let 
him fall. 

When Jerry came to, Robert looked 
down at him and said very menacing- 
ly, “Don’t ever tell on me again, 
shrimp, or next time I won’t let go.” 

That was the last time anybody 
squealed on him. 

T 

■ hat’s just to set the scene, just to 
give you an idea of what I was living 
with then at school. At home I tried 
to keep Robert and the whole miser- 
able situation out of my mind. But 
one day when I was standing in front 
of the mirror making faces, I made 
the connection. 

I’d always had a feeling of fascinat- 
ed horror with mirrors — ever since 
I’d heard the story of Pinocchio or 
seen the Disney film when 1 was lit- 
tle. Things affect you more deeply 
when you’re a kid. You’ve got no fil- 
ter to screen out the things your imag- 
ination cooks up. You know the part 
of Pinocchio where he started turn- 
ing into a donkey? Well, every so 
often I’d dream that I was standing in 
front of a mirror, and the first thing I 
knew my ears had turned into donkey 
ears, and I knew that it was just a mat- 
ter of time before I’d completely turn 
into a donkey. The horror of that 
nightmare was overpowering. I’d 
wake up shaking and sweaty with my 
heart trying to beat its way out of my 


chest. And I was so afraid that I’d ac- 
tually begun to change that 1 was 
afraid to turn on the light and look in 
the mirror to see that it wasn’t true. 

So you’d think I’d be too afraid to 
go near a mirror, right? 

Just the opposite. I’d lock myself 
in the bathroom sometimes for more 
than an hour making faces at myself. I 
guess all kids do. It’s seeing all of the 
other people locked away inside us 
that we can make appear just by twist- 
ing our faces into the right expres- 
sions that fascinates us, I suppose. All 
of the people it’s best to keep locked 
away inside us. 

I gave all of my favorite faces 
names. There was the Neanderthal, 
which I made by projecting my jaw 
and grimacing while I slouched my 
eyebrows and my whole forehead re- 
gressed into a beetled slope. I’d turn 
my head slowly back and forth in a 
kind of grote.sque orbit so I could see 
the stupid sloped face from every 
possible angle until my face grew 
tired or I got bored with it. And it did 
look like a Neanderthal. Kind of a 
good argument in favor of evolution, 
I used to think. 

But the best face was the one I 
called Rat Boy. Christ, it was horri- 
ble. I’d suck in my chin as far as it 
would go and project the big front 
teeth that were too large for my head 
outward, just like a rat’s. This was be- 
fore I wore braces. And I’d squint my 
eyes so they slanted together, project- 
ing my cheekbones and sucking in my 


120 


Fantoisy & Science Fiction 



cheeks so the front part of my face 
looked like a muzzle. But the best 
part was the eyes that would leer 
back at me from the mirror. Because 
when I really got into character, I 
could feel a change come over me, 
and a yellow light would come on in 
my eyes like those yellow bulbs peo- 
ple use on their porches to cut down 
on bugs. As soon as I reached that 
stage where the glint came on in my 
eyes, I knew I’d found Rat Boy. The 
sinister thing that looked back at me 
was me, but was somehow more than 
me, too, with a powerful life of its 
own. I could bear looking into those 
needle eyes for only a second before 
a chill came over me and I’d have to 
change back to my frightened, grin- 
ning self It was as if I knew that if 1 
looked too long into those eyes, 1 
wouldn’t be able to change back. 

Robert, meet Rat Boy, I thought to 
myself with an evil, self-satisfied smile. 

And the next day in class when 
Wilkerson was out of the room, I in- 
troduced them. 

I waited till all of the other kids 
were busy talking or playing games at 
their desks, and then I started staring 
at Robert from across the room to get 
his attention and annoy him at the 
same time. Pretty soon he felt my 
eyes on him and began to glare back. 
Then, when I had him hooked, 1 got 
up and left the room quietly, heading 
for the washroom. You see, I needed 
a mirror to really do the thing right. 

Walking back from the washroom, 


I had to let my face relax back to 
normal, but 1 kept the feeling for Rat 
Boy right up close to the surface, 
with a small pilot light burning in my 
eyes to flare up at the right second. 

As soon as I sat down, Robert turn- 
ed around again to give me an icy 
look. When his eyes looked into mine 
with their usual menace, I contorted 
my face into the preconceived pat- 
tern — Rat Boy — and let the pilot 
light behind my pupils open up full 
throttle till I could feel the change 
flicker all the way through me and for 
an instant 1 was Rat Boy. 

In that instant 1 watched through 
the eyes of Rat Boy as Robert convuls- 
ed in shock. Like he’d looked right 
into the too-bright light of Rat Boy’s 
eyes and couldn’t stand what he saw 
revealed there. His mouth dropped 
open and his face contorted in revul- 
sion and fear. 

Meanwhile, my face had collapsed 
from that of Rat Boy into Alan’s, my 
ten-year-old self, but the effect it had 
on Robert was long- lasting and deep. 
1 don’t think he understood what had 
happened at all, but from that time 
on, he blustered and swore at me but 
wouldn’t lay a chubby hand within 
biting distance. 

I might have been content to have 
stopped his merciless persecution of 
me, but I was afraid the spell might 
wear off eventually, and anyway, 1 
wanted revenge now that I had him 
in retreat. As I walked past him that 
afternoon on our way to get on the 


Rat Boy 


121 



buses to go home, I was struck with a 
sudden inspiration. 

It was a phrase, really, that I’d 
heard my mother use about the doc- 
tor and that I’d occasionally hear my 
father use on the phone when dis- 
cussing business, 

“I have an appointment with you, 
Robert,” I rasped in his ear as I walked 
by. 

In the mouth of a ten-year-old, the 
word appointment sounds terribly 
unnatural and businesslike, with 
something of portent and menace in 
its tone. It struck just the right chord 
in him, because Robert drew back as 
if I’d just spattered him with hot 
grease. 

Two or three times a week after 
that. I’d mutter it to him when chance 
brought us together. “I have an ap- 
pointment with you,” I’d say, and cas- 
ually drift away, leaving Robert rattled 
and confused and filled with a sense 
of coming evil. 

I got tired of simply frightening 
him after a while, and since any threat 
weakens in proportion to the number 
of times it’s used, I thought I’d better 
put a little more juice back into it. So 
I kept my eye on Robert, and when 
he’d slip out of the room — with Wil- 
kerson’s permission when he was 
there and without it when he wasn’t 
— I’d slip out behind him and follow 
him to the boy’s room. 

Half of the time there’d be some- 
body else there in the washroom 
from another class, and most of the 


time Robert only had to take a leak, 
but one time after lunch I got to the 
washroom just in time to find it empty 
and Robert huffing away in a stall. It 
was the moment I was waiting for. 

While Robert huffed and puffed in 
the stall like a grounded whale, with 
his pants around his ankles visible be- 
neath the door, I stood in front of the 
long bathroom mirror that spanned 
one wall and pressed up close to it. 
First I took off my glasses. Then I re- 
tracted my jaw, projected my teeth, 
and went through the entire ritual of 
turning into Rat Boy, but this time 
there was something breathless and 
dangerous about it that made it slow- 
er, I looked into the eyes in the mir- 
ror and waited for that moment of 
recognition when Rat Boy emerged 
with a glint around the iris and pup- 
ils. 1 could hear Robert zipping up his 
pants and rattling the stall door open, 
and looked over my shoulder to see 
him emerging from the stall behind 
me. Robert didn’t recognize me from 
behind, but he looked me in the eyes 
in the mirror, and the minute our 
eyes met, 1 could feel the flash of rec- 
ognition going through me like a 
rush of kilowatts. 

The next thing I remember is be- 
ing pulled away from him by Mr. Wil- 
kerson and another teacher. I could 
see Robert’s head twisting away from 
mine as hard as it could between two 
metal paper towel dispensers, as if he 
wanted to press his head right through 
the wall to get away from me. There 


122 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



were four bloody furrows where fin- 
gernails had plowed down his cheek, 
and he was bleeding from the nose 
and one ear where part of the lobe 
had been bitten off. It’s incredible 
the amount of blood that can come 
from a cut ear. And the whole time 
the teachers were pulling me away, 1 
could hear him screaming like an ani- 
mal trapped in a burning barn. 

I was suspended for three days af- 
ter that and had to listen to a lot of 
lectures from both of my parents, a 
guidance counselor, and the princi- 
pal and vice principal. But 1 was 
strangely unaffected by all of the at- 
tention for a normally well-behaved 
boy, because in a real sense I didn’t 
feel as if I had done anything wrong. 
You see, it was Rat Boy. 

Robert was absent from school 
more often than he was present after 
the washroom incident. Either he’d 
fake sickness at home to stay out, or 
he’d just hook school and be marked 
as truant. When they’d catch him, 
they’d make him go to school for a 
few days, but before long he’d make a 
wrong turn on the way to the bus 
stop and walk down to the railroad 
tracks instead to spend the day with 
the other truants. Or he’d wander off 
by himself to wait for school to let 
out so he could go home. 

The kids from his neighborhood 
said he was the same old Robert 
around borne, but in school he tried 
to keep a low profile until he could 
disappear again for a few days. 


Then, in the late spring, he started 
coming to school more regularly and 
gradually began to resort to his old 
bullying. All of the time he’d spent as 
a truant, he’d been hanging out with 
older boys from the junior high and 
high school, and the insouciance of 
the older hoodlums had rubbed off 
on him. He was probably a pretty 
quick study when it came to larceny 
and mayhem. 

His first act as a born-again bully 
came one day after lunch outside the 
cafeteria. He had pinned a tall sixth 
grade boy down on his back and was 
crouched over his face with a spoon 
clutched in his angry mitt. 

“You know what 1 could do with 
this spoon, if I wanted to, queero? 1 
could pop that beady eye right out of 
your queery little head, that’s what.” 
Then he gently touched the point of 
the spoon to the boy’s lid above the 
eyeball and pressed ever so gently, 
just to scare him. The boy’s face went 
white and he tried to scream, but 
Robert had already forced the air out 
of him with his fat ass. 

“It’d go pop, just like that. And 
you know what I’d do then? I’d stick 
it in your fat mouth and make you eat 
it. So next time I ask ya, ya better give 
me your fuckin’ lunch money or you’ll 
wish you had. ’ Then he let the shak- 
en boy up off the ground and strolled 
lazily down the hall, tapping the spoon 
he stolen from the cafeteria against 
the wall with every step. 

He still hadn’t quite worked up 


Rat Boy 


123 



enough nerve to threaten me again, 
but he finally did something that 
pushed me over the edge anyway. 

It happened in class before re- 
cess. Robert was sitting behind a girl 
named Phyllis from the next rectan- 
gle of desks across the aisle. Phyllis 
was a girl I’d known from the first 
grade and from Sunday school at 
church since we were both in diap- 
ers. She was a quiet girl who had to 
wear one of those prosthetic hooks 
from the elbow down where an arm 
had failed to grow. 

While Phyllis was engrossed in a 
game of ticktacktoe with the girl op- 
posite her one morning in class, with 
her hooked arm dangling at her side, 
Robert crawled up quietly behind 
her on the floor and tied her hook to 
her chair leg with a shoelace he had 
unhitched from his sneaker. Then he 
quietly skidded back to his own chair 
and waited for her to try to move her 
arm. 

It was several minutes before she 
tried to move the arm, but finally she 
let out a little gasp and tried to stand 
up out of her chair, quickly, as if 
she’d just noticed that her dress was 
on fire. She tried for about twenty sec- 
onds to pull her hand free, but the 
shoelace held while she tugged and 
let out little wordless cries with ev- 
ery failure to free the arm. There was 
a panic about her tugging — like a 
rabbit with its foot in a trap — that 
made me kind of sick. The whole 
room was horror-stricken by the help- 


less frenzy of her panic. 

She tried to untie the hook with 
her good free hand when she’d had a 
little more time to get her wits about 
her, but the knots were tight and she 
couldn’t budge them one-handed. No 
one had the courage to try to help by 
untying her — they didn’t want to 
have to touch that hook. 

Luckily, Wilkerson came back in- 
to the room before anybody had to or 
before Phyllis began to get hysterical. 
He cut her loose with a little pen- 
knife, and the look he gave the class 
after he’d freed her made us all squirm 
in our chairs with guilt. There wasn’t 
a person in the room who didn’t 
know who had done it and who 
wouldn’t have cheered if they saw 
Robert tied to a burning stake, 
screaming as the flames ran up his 
pant legs, or who wouldn’t have 
thrown the switch on the electric 
chair if he’d been strapped into it. 
But no one came forward to denounce 
him. 

“Who did this?” demanded Wilker- 
son in a hollow voice we’d never 
heard him use before. He was so mad 
he looked almost like a different per- 
son, with his face all red beneath his 
thatch of light brown hair — except 
where the pressure of his jaw mus- 
cles’ clenching made the flesh white 
just below his sideburns. 

Nobody answered. Although the 
urge to indict Robert was burning in 
all of our hearts, only two or three of 
us had actually seen Robert commit 


124 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



the act, and those who had were 
afraid of his reprisals. 

In an instant I found myself on my 
feet, saying in a voice far more fear- 
less and confident than I actually was, 
“It was Robert, Mr. Wilkerson. I saw 
him do it.” 

When Wilkerson ordered Robert 
to the principal’s office and followed 
him out of the room, I was still stand- 
ing. Everybody watched me as I sat 
down. You’d think I’d just walked on 
water or something. 

Robert was given a lecture and a 
two-day suspension, but he had to 
come back to class and finish the day 
until the buses came to take us home. 

At lunch that afternoon, Robert 
walked up to my table where I sat 
with my friends and delivered him- 
self of some venom. Across the table, 
he loomed over Jerry Kennedy, the 
kid he’d choked, and spat his insult at 
me. 

“You little rat, Alan. You goddamn 
little rat.” 

His choice of words made me 
smile. Then he realized what he’d 
said, and some memory of our en- 
counter in the boy’s room came back 
to him suddenly. He took two steps 
backward. I kept right on smiling, 
and though I didn’t actually say a 
word, I know my eyes communicated 
to him what I was thinking just as if 
I’d called him up on the phone: 

“I have an appointment with you,” 
my eyes said to him. He backed away 
as if from a rabid dog. 


Unexpectedly, Alan Cooperman paus- 
ed in the middle of his monologue, 
while his wife waited for him to con- 
tinue. When the pause began to 
lengthen and he still failed to pick up 
the narrative thread, she interjected 
impatiently. 

“Is that it?” 

“You asked what it was I mumbled 
while we were reading, so I told you. 
Rat Boy. Just what I said.” 

“And that’s it? That’s the deep, 
dark secret I had to pry out of you? 
Christ,” Lisa huffed, “I’m sorry I asked. 

”No. That’s not all of it. There’s a 
little more,” he returned almost apol- 
ogetically. 

Lisa waited, knowing that the best 
strategy now was just to sit tight. After 
a nervous throat clearing, Alan con- 
tinued. 

“I ... I think I might have done 
something terrible. I think I . . . might 
have killed him. 

“Not as myself,” he hurried to 
add. “I mean, as Rat Boy. 

“They found his body by the rail- 
road tracks two nights later, horribly 
mutilated. His nose had been bitten 
off. 

“1 . . . had waited for him the next 
day at school, but he never showed 

up — must have been playing hooky, 

afraid I’d get him when he came back 
to class. The second day after our en- 
counter in the cafeteria, I stayed home 
from school myself, pretending sick- 
ness till my mother was out of the 


Rat Boy 


125 



house to go to work. I was pretty re- 
sponsible around home, so my moth- 
er thought she could trust me alone 
at home for one day while I was sick. 
Little did she know. 

“About eleven o’clock in the 
morning after a little teleWsion, I 
went upstairs to the bathroom mirror 
and — you know, sort of got into char- 
acter. I saw the old familiar light go 
on in the eyes, bingo, and the next 
thing 1 knew, my mother was coming 
in the front door from work. It was 
5:30. 1 was standing soaking wet in all 
of my clothes in a puddle of water in 
front of the bathroom mirror, staring 
into my eyes the way you stare some- 
times when you’re oblivious to the 
world. I had lost four or five hours 
somewhere. The instant I heard the 
front door open, I came to, got out of 
my wet clothes, threw them in the 
hamper, and slipped on my pajamas 
and bathrobe. When I heard the news 
about Robert the next day, after they’d 
found him by the railroad, I threw 
up.” 

“And so, naturally, you thought 
that it was you who killed him. It 
couldn’t have been wild dogs or 
something? Or some maniac?” 

“Yeah, maybe.” 

Lisa paused for several heartbeats, 
then mused to the still air. “And 
you’ve been carrying this around in- 
side you all of these years, this belief 
that you or Rat Boy or something had 
somehow killed that hateful little brat. 
That’s why you’re .still so shy. why 


you’re always holding something back 
from me, why you can never quite let 
go of yourself. . . .” 

Alan suddenly felt di.semburdened, 
as if relieved of a great, oppressive 
weight. He thought that perhaps they 
had at last broken through the bar- 
riers that had inhibited their relation- 
ship from the start and that had lately 
seemed so divisive. 

“Well, Alan,” Lisa concluded with 
a sniff, “I think that is just sick. My 
God, is that sick.” 

Something inside Alan Cooperman 
deflated like an inner tube. 

Then the phone rang before he 
could mumble a lame protest. His 
wife’s voice, as she answered the 
phone, seemed to reproach him with 
every syllable as she spoke into the 
mouthpiece, turning away and cra- 
dling the white plastic with her face. 
Her voice had a strained edge to it as 
she spoke, as if trying unsuccessfully 
to sound casual. 

“No . . . no . . . yes ... I really can’t 
say,” her voice said noncommitally. 
“Me, too,” she said before hanging 
up. “Good-bye.” 

“That was him again, wasn’t it?” 
Alan protested, surprising himself 
with his sudden intuition. 

“Alan. . . .” 

“That was him again, wasn’t it, 
wasn’t it?” he insisted. He felt sick 
when she didn’t answer. 

“Alan,” she began, “We were go- 
ing to tell you. . . .” 

“We?” This was it, then, he 


126 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



thought, remembering her solemn 
promises — this was finally it. 

“Alan,” her voice persisted after 
him as he walked rubber-legged and 
dizzy from the room. “I’m sorry, Alan, 
I’m really sorry. . . .” 

The slamming of the bedroom 
door put a period to her sentence. 
Then the bathroom door slammed. 

Standing before the bathroom sink, 
Alan lifted a clean, neatly folded tow- 
el from off the rack and pressed his 
face quietly into it, crying softly. The 
towel muffled his sobs and absorbed 
the tears that squeezed from his eyes. 
It’s over, he kept thinking to himself 
with the smell of the clean laundered 
towel in his nostrils; this time it’s 
really over. 

After several minutes he put the 
towel aside and regarded his grief- 
stricken face in the mirror. Seeing 
the red-rimmed eyes and the tear- 
laden lashes sobered him up. It’s im- 
possible for a man to look himself in 
the face and observe his own grief, he 
thought. He grinned idiotically. 

Then the grin disappeared and no 


new expression moved in to replace 
it. His face was a blank, waiting for a 
new expression to fill it like an empty 
TV screen. 

He smiled again, self-consciously, 
raised his eyebrows, and wiggled his 
ears. He forgot all about his trouble, 
looking into the mirror. He lowered 
his brows and thrust out his chin till 
his face took on a half-human expres- 
sion. The Neanderthal, he thought, 
twisting his head to the side for a bet- 
ter view. Then he erased that expres- 
sion as if cleaning a slate and started 
anew. 

This time he thrust out his two 
front teeth and retracted his jaw. 
When the rest of his face looked 
right, he stared into the eyes, squint- 
ing, and waited for something. WTien 
a glint sparked from both eyes, he sud- 
denly remembered what it was he 
was waiting for. With the new mus- 
tache and the five o’clock shadow, it 
somehow looked different. 

“Rat Man,” he christened the new 
thing, and stepped quietly into the 
hall. 


Rat Boy 


127 



BEGINNING WITH BONE 


The other day I found myself 
trapped on a dais at a luncheon at 
which I was not scheduled to talk. 
That, in itself, placed a frown on my 
youthful face. Why chivvy me into sit- 
ting at the dais instead of at a table 
with my dear wife, Janet, if they were 
not going to be making any use of me. 

Of course, I would be introduced, 
which meant I could at least rise and 
smile prettily. It turned out, though, 
that the introducer had never heard 
of me, and so mangled my name when 
she tried to pronounce it, that I 
aborted my rise quickly and refused 
to smile. 

So it didn't look as though it were 
going to be my day. In sheer despara- 
tion, I occupied myself in writing a 
naughty limerick for the woman who 
sat to my left, and who did know me. 
( In fact, she was responsible for my 
being stuck there.) 

I suppose she noted that I was 
looking rather grim, so she undertook 
to cheer me up by bringing me to the 
attention of others. She turned to the 
man on her left and said, “Look at this 
funny limerick that Dr. Isaac Asimov 
has written for me.” 

The businessman looked at it with 
lackluster eye and then looking up at 
me, said, “Are you a writer by any 
chance?” 

Well\ I don't expect people to 
read my stuff necessarily, but read it 
or not, I do expect them to have at 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



least a vague suspicion that I’m a writer. 

My friend at the left, noting that my hand was creeping toward the 
knife beside my plate, said hurriedly, “Oh, he is. He has written three 
hundred fifty books.” 

Unimpressed, the fellow said, “Three hundred fifty limericks?” 

“No, three hundred fifty hooks.” 

There then took place the following conversation between the man 
and me. 

Man (unwilling to let go of the limericks); “Are you Iri.sh?” 

Asimov; “No.” 

Man; “Then how can you write limericks?” 

Asimov; “I was born in Russia and write odessas.”' 

Man (looking blank); “Do you use a word-processor?” 

Asimov; “Yes.” 

Man; “Can you imagine getting along without one now?” 

Asimov; “Sure.” 

Man (paying no attention); “Can you imagine what might have hap- 
pened to ‘War and Peace’ if Dostoevski had had a word-processor?” 

Asimov (scornfully); “Nothing at all, since ‘War and Peace’ was writ- 
ten by Tolstoy.” 

That ended the conversation and I turned my attention to surviving 
the lunch — which I did, but not by much. 

All is not lost, however. Having met with a bonehead, it struck me 
that I would start my next F&SF essay by considering bone. 

Life, as we know it on Earth, is carried on in a watery base in which 
molecules of various sizes are dissolved or suspended. On the whole, 
this means that life-forms are apt to be soft and squashy, like earth- 
worms, for instance. It is possible to get by in a soft and squashy way, 
and all of life managed to do so until the Earth was nearly seven-eighths 
its present age. It is only comparatively recently that life developed 
hardness. 

Of course, even at its softest and squashiest, bits of life couldn’t 
simply exist as watery solutions immersed in the ocean. It would be 
disper.sed and washed away. Each bit of life had to have some outer 
pellicle that would keep the molecular machinery of life together and 

‘In the very unlikely chance that you don’t get this, Limerick is a town in 
southwestern Ireland, and Odessa one in southwestern Russia. 


Science 


129 



separate it from the surrounding ocean. 

This was done by building up macromolecules (chains of small 
molecules) to form cell membranes. Plant cells, concentrating on sugar 
units, built up cellulo.se out of long chains of glucose molecules, and 
that is now the most common organic molecule in existence. Cellulose 
is the major component of wood. Cotton, linen, and paper are practical- 
ly pure cellulose. 

Animal cells do not make cellulose. They concentrate on other mac- 
romolecules (proteins, for instance) for the job. The tough protein, 
keratin, is a major component of skin, scales, hair, nails, hooves and 
claws. Another tough protein, collagen, is to be found in ligaments, 
tendons, and in connective tissue generally. 

But about 600,000,000 years ago, quite suddenly on the evolutionary 
scale, various animal groups (“phyla”) developed the trick of using 
inorganic substances as protective walls. These were essentially rocky 
in nature and were harder, stronger, and more impervious to the envi- 
ronment than anything built out of organic materials. (They were also 
heavier, less sensitive, less responsive and often forced those creatures 
weighed down by the material to take up a motionless life. ) 

These “skeletons” served not only as protection, but as a good place 
to attach muscles, which could then pull harder and more powerfully. 
Futhermore, it is these hard parts that make up the bulk of the fossil 
remnants of life that we find in sedimentary rock. Being rock-like in 
nature, they can easily undergo changes (under the proper circum- 
stances) that make them more rock-like still. They can then retain their 
original shape and form for hundreds of millions of years. It is for this 
reason that fossils are common only in rocks younger than 600,000,000 
years. Before that, there were no hard parts to fossilize. 

The simplest animals to develop a skeleton were the one-celled 
“radiolarians.” These microscopic creatures have beautiful skeletons of 
intricate inorganic spicules composed of “silica” or “.silicon dioxide” — 
which is the characteristic substance making up sand. 

Silica, however, although exceedingly common, did not become the 
general skeletal material. It is apparently too difficult for organisms to 
handle. Human beings, for instance, in common with animal life, gener- 
ally, do not contain any silicon compounds as essential parts of our 
bodies. Any such compounds present are just temporarily there as im- 
purities swallowed with our food. 

Beginning with the simplest multicellular animals, there developed 


130 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



a tendency for forming skeletons made out of calcium compounds, 
particularly calcium carbonate, which is also known as “limestone.” 

The sea-shells of members of the phylum, Mollusca (clams, oysters, 
snails) are made of calcium carbonate. This is also true for members of 
other phyla such as coral, bryozoans, lampshells and so on. For that 
matter, the egg-shells formed by reptiles and birds are also calcium 
carbonate. 

The phylum Arthropoda, however, struck a compromise. They did 
not get bogged down beneath a heavy shell that left them with oyster- 
like immobility. They avoided inorganic strengthening altogether and 
remained with organic macromolecules. They improved on those, 
however. 

The arthropods (which include such creatures as lobsters, crabs, 
shrimps, insects of all kinds, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and so on ) 
all have a skeleton of “chitin,” from a Greek word for a coat of armor, or 
shell. 

Chitin is a macromolecule built up of sugar units very much as 
cellulose is, but with a difference. Whereas cellulose is built up of 
glucose units (glucose being a very common and simple sugar), chitin 
is built up of glucosamine units. The glucoses in the chitin chain are 
each modified by the presence of a small nitrogen-containing group, 
and this suffices to make chitin quite different from cellulose in its 
properties. 

Chitin is tough enough to serve as protection; it is flexible as well, 
and it is light enough to allow rapid active moven-ent. Indeed, insects, 
despite their thin skeletons of chitin, are mobile enough to fly. (Of 
course, they can do so only at the cost of remaining very small. ) 

Chitin may well be one of the reasons why the arthropods are so 
amazingly successful. There are far more species of arthropods than 
there are species of all the other phyla put together. 

This brings us to Chordata, the last phylum to come into existence 
(from starfish-like ancestors), about 550,000,000 years ago. What dif- 
ferentiates chordates from all other creatures is that they have, first, a 
nerve cord that is hollow and not solid, and that runs along the back and 
not along the belly. Secondly, they have gill slits through which they can 
pass water and filter out food (though in land dwelling chordates, these 
show signs of developing only in the embryonic stage). Thirdly, they 
have a stiffening rod, called a notochord, running parallel to the nerve 


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cord (though, again, the notochord may only be present in embryonic 
or in larval stages). 

The notochord is made up of collagen, chiefly, and is an example of 
an internal skeleton, rather than the external skeletons found in other 
phyla. Internal skeletons are found, to a fumbling extent, in a few other 
places in the other phyla, but only the chordates went on to specialize 
in it. They went further than the arthropods. They left the outer skin 
unprotected, and left the skeleton inside where it could serve to main- 
tain shape and integrity and be an anchor to muscles. The softness and 
vulnerability of unprotected skin is more than made up for by strength, 
power, and mobility that chordates can develop, thanks to the relatively 
light but strong internal skeleton. It is no wonder that the largest, most 
powerful, fastest, most intelligent and, in general, the most successful 
animals who have ever lived are chordates. 

Early in the chordate history, the simple rod of the notochord was 
replaced by a series of separate bits of skeletal tissue that actually en- 
closed the nerve cord, giving it additional protection. These separate 
bits of skeleton are called “vertebrae” and they make up the “spinal 
column.” Nowadays, all chordates, but for three groups of very primitive 
out-of-the-way organisms, possess vertebrae. They make up the sub- 
phylum, Vertebrata, and are the “vertebrates.” 

The earliest vertebrates, which evolved about 5 10,000,000 years ago, 
were the first to develop bone. This was an inorganic skeletal material 
that was composed of calcium compounds, but was not quite calcium 
carbonate. This bone was restricted to the outside of the body, especially 
in the head region, and these early vertebrates were called “ostraco- 
derms” (“shell-skin” in Greek). The vertebrae inside the body were 
cartilage, which was made up again, chiefly of collagen. 

The external skeleton of the ostracoderms limited mobility, how- 
ever, and, in general, this was not a successful device. Vertebrates with- 
out outer armor, who relied on mobility and agility, did better. Even 
today, those chordates with outer armor, such as turtles, armadillos and 
pangolins, are not notably successful. 

Ostracoderms developed in two directions. They developed more 
elaborate internal skeletons, including cartilaginous extensions that 
made four limbs possible, and other extensions that made movable jaws 
possible. They then lost the outer armor and became the sharks and 
related organisms of today. The sharks have no armor and retain a car- 
tilage skeleton (though their teeth are of a bone-like material). They 


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have remained successful to the present day. 

In the other direction, the ostrocoderms with limbs and jaws did not 
simply get rid of their outer armor, but withdrew some of it under the 
skin. The armor that had protected the head became a skull to protect 
the brain and sense organs. Bone spread to the rest of the skeleton, too. 
In this way, the “Osteichthyes” (Greek for “bony fish”) developed 
about 420,000,000 years ago, and still dominate the waters of the earth. 

From the bony fish, the amphibians evolved; from the amphibians, 
the reptiles evolved; from the reptiles, the birds and mammals evolved. 
All of these have retained the bony internal skeleton. That, of course, 
includes you. It is your mark as a vertebrate. Nothing that is not verte- 
brate has bone. 

Bone, like oyster shells, is a calcium compound. How do bones differ 
from oyster shells, then? 

The first person to do a successful chemical analysis of bone was the 
Swedish mineralogist Johann Gottlieb Gahn (1745-1818). He made use 
of the then-new method of blow-pipe analysis. The blow-pipe produced 
a .small, hot flame in which minerals could be heated. The manner of 
their melting or vaporizing, the colors they formed, the characteristics of 
their ash could all be interpreted by a skilled practitioner. In 1770, 
Gahn subjected bone to blow-pipe analysis and found it contained cal- 
cium phosphate, whose molecule, as you can tell from its name, con- 
tains a phosphorus atom. 

In last month’s essay, I described how phosphorus had been dis- 
covered just a century before Gahn’s finding. It had been obtained from 
urine, which suggested it might be a component of the body (or just an 
impurity that was cast out in the urine as fast as possible). Gahn was the 
first to point out a specific place in the body where it could be found. It 
existed in bone. 

However, bone exists only in vertebrates. What about non -vertebrate 
animals? What about plants? Is phosphorus only to be found in one 
place, or might it be a universal component of all life-forms? 

In 1804, a Swiss biologist, Nicolas Theodore de Saussure (1767- 
1845), published a number of analyses of different plants, of the water- 
soluble minerals they contained and of the ash obtained when they had 
been burned. He invariably found phosphates present, which could in- 
dicate that phosphorus compounds were a universal constituent of 
plant life, and possibly of all life. 


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On the other hand, plants might take up miscellaneous atoms from 
the soil in which they grew, even a relative few for which they had no 
use. In that case, since plants did not have the efficient excretory system 
of animals, they might simply store the unnecessary atoms in odd corners 
of their tissues, and they would be there to show up in analysis. Thus, 
Saussure also discovered .small quantities of silicon compounds and 
aluminum compounds in plant ash and, to this day, we have no clear 
evidence that either silicon or aluminum are essential components of 
life. 

We might work from the other end and find out what elements 
contributed to plant growth. It was clear from earliest times that w’hen 
plants were cultivated, they withdrew vital matter from the soil, and, if 
this were not restored the soil gradually became infertile. By hit or miss, 
various animal products were found to work as “fertilizers" — blood, 
ground bones, decaying fish, and so on. The most common fertilizer, 
because it was so handy, was animal (or human) manure. So commonly 
was it used that, to this day, “fertilizer” is a genteel s)'nonym for manure, 
which is itself from an old French word meaning “to cultivate” and is a 
genteel synonym for you-know-what. 

The trouble with manure and other animal products is that they are 
so complex, chemically speaking, that we can’t be sure what com- 
ponents do the actual fertilizing because they are essential to plant 
growth, and which are only along for the ride. 

In the 19th Century, however, there was a drive to replace manure. 
For one thing, manure stinks (as we all know) and makes a travesty of 
the “fresh air ” of the countryside. For another, it carries disease germs, 
and probably did its bit to initiate and make worse the epidemics that 
struck the world in the old days. 

The German chemist, Justus von Liebig (1803-1873), was the first to 
study chemical fertilizers in detail and, by 1855, he had made it quite 
plain that phosphates were essential to fertilization. 

If phosphates are essential to plants and, presumably, to animals, 
then they must be found elsewhere than in bones. They must be present 
in the soft tissues, and that means there must be some organic com- 
pounds built up of the ordinary elements found in some substances 
(carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulfur), but with phosphorus 
atoms in addition. 

Such a compound was actually found, even before Liebig had worked 


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out his fertilizer system. In 1845, a French chemist, Nicolas Theodor 
Gobley (1811-1876), was studying the fatty matter in egg yolk. He 
obtained a substance whose molecules he hydrolyzed (that is, broke 
apart with the addition of water ) and obtained fatty acids. This is what 
is to be expected of any self-respecting fat. He also obtained, however, 
“glycerophosphoric acid,” an organic molecule containing a phospho- 
rus atom. In 1850, he named the original substance “lecithin,” from the 
Greek word for “egg yolk.” 

Gobley was not able to get the exact chemical analysis, but we now 
know what it is. The lecithin molecule is made up of 42 carbon atoms, 
84 hydrogen atoms, 9 oxygen atoms, 1 nitrogen atom, and 1 phosphorus 
atom. Only 1 phosphorus atom out of 137 atoms altogether, but that is 
enough to establish the existence of organic phosphates. 

There are other similar compounds that have since been discovered 
and that are called, as a group, “phosphoglycerides.” 

Actually, the phosphoglycerides might also be considered skeletal 
matter. They help make up the cell membranes and the insulating mate- 
rial about nerve cells. In fact, the white matter of brain (white because 
of the presence of thick layers of insulating fatty material about the 
nerve fibers) is particularly rich in pho.sphoglycerides. 

When this was first discovered, it was thought that phosphorus had 
something to do with mental function, and the slogan arose, “No phos- 
phorus, no thought.” In a way, that was right, since if the nerve fibers 
are not properly insulated, they won’t work, and we won’t think. That, 
however, is an indirect connection. We might as well say, since kidneys 
are essential to human life, “no kidney, no thought,” which is true 
enough, but which doesn’t mean that we think with our kidneys. 

It was also discovered that fish were reasonably rich in phosphorus, 
from which arose the myth that fish were “brain food.” This, in popular 
food mythology, must be second only to the notion (fostered by good 
old Popeye) that spinach is the gateway to instant superhuman strength. 
Bertie Wooster, that lovable but dim-witted young man created by P. G. 
Wodehouse, was always urging his intelligent man-servant, Jeeves, to 
eat a few sardines whenever some particularly urgent problem arose. 

Once lecithin was discovered, the dam broke. Other organic phos- 
phates were found. Phosphate groups were found to be part of proteins 
in milk, eggs and meat. Obviously, phosphorus was essential to life itself 
and not just to the skeletal background. 


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But what does phosphorus and all those phosphate groups do? It’s 
not enough just to be there. They must do something. 

The first hint in that direction came in 1904, when the English 
biochemist Arthur Harden (1865-1904) was studying yeast, trying to 
work out the chemical details of how it ferments sugar into alcohol. It 
did this as a result of the presence of enzymes, and, in those days, 
nothing more was known about enzymes than the name (Greek for “in 
yeast" ) and the fact that they brought about chemical changes. 

Harden placed the ground-up yeast, containing the enzymes, in a bag 
made of a membrane that was porous enough to allow small molecules, 
but not big ones, to pass through. After he kept the bag in a vat of water 
long enough to allow all the small molecules to escape, he found that 
the material inside the membrane would no longer ferment sugar. That 
did not mean that the enzyme was a small molecule that had escaped, 
for the outside water could not ferment sugar either. However, if the 
material in the vat and in the bag were mixed, the two together could 
ferment sugar. 

In this way. Harden showed that an enzyme consisted of a large 
molecule (enzyme) working with a small molecule (co-enzyme) in 
cooperation. The small enzyme, Harden found, contained phosphorus. 
(For a fuller account, see the biochemicai. knife blade, F&SF, November 
1985). 

This meant that phosporus was involved in the molecular changes 
that took place in the tissues, directly involved. Phosphates were part of 
coenzymes that worked with many enzymes and that was not all. 

Yeast extract ferments sugar quite rapidly at first, but as time goes 
on the level of activity’ drops off. The natural assumption is that the 
enzyme breaks down with time. In 1905, however. Harden showed that 
this could not be so. If he added inorganic phosphate to the solution, 
the enzyme went back to work as hard as ever, and the inorganic phos- 
phate disappeared. 

What happened to the inorganic phosphate? It had to add on to 
something. Harden searched and discovered that two phosphate groups 
had added on to a simple sugar, fructose. The molecule that resulted, 
“fructose- 1, 6-disphosphate,” is sometimes called Harden-Young ester, 
in honor of Harden and his co-worker, W. J. Young. 

Harden-Young ester is an example of a “metabolic intermediate,” a 
compound formed in the course of metabolism, in places between the 
starting point (sugar) and the ending point (alcohol). Again, once the 


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first step was taken, others followed and many other phosphoruS-con- 
taining metabolic intermediates were discovered. 

But why should these phosphorus-containing metabolic interme- 
diates be important? The German-American biochemist Fritz Albert 
Lipmann (1899-1986) glimpsed the answer in 1941. He noticed that 
most organic phosphates, when they were hydrolyzed and the phosphate 
group broken off, liberated a certain amount of energy, about the 
amount one might expect. 

On the other hand, when a few phosphate esters were hydrolyzed, 
they liberated a rather greater amount of energy. Lipmann therefore 
began to speak of a low-energy phosphate bond and a high-energy 
phosphate bond. 

Food contains a great deal of chemical energy, and when it is broken 
down it yields more energy all together than the body can easily absorb. 
There is a danger that most of the energy would be lost. However, as the 
metabolic chain progresses, every once in a while enough energy is 
produced to change a low-energy phosphate bond into a high-energy 
one. That contains a convenient amount of energy. 

It is as though food consisted of hundred dollar bills that the body 
couldn’t find change for, but when it was broken down and formed high 
energy phosphate bonds, it was as though the hundred dollar bills were 
broken up into many five dollar bills, each of which is easily negotiable. 

The most common and ubiquitous of the high-energy phosphate 
bonds in the body are those belonging to a molecule called “adenosine 
triphosphate” (ATP), and it is this which is the energy handler of the 
body. For a few years, ATP were considered the initials of the key 
phosphorus compound of life. 

However, as long ago as 1869, a Swiss chemist, Johann Friedrich 
Mischer (1844-1895), isolated something from pus, which was an 
organic substance that contained phosphorus. He reported this to his 
boss, the German biochemist Ernst Felix Immanuel Hoppe-Seyler 
(1825-1895), who was dubious about the worth of the discovery. At 
that time, lecithin, discovered 24 years earlier, was still the only 
phosphorus-containing organic substance known, and Hoppe-Seyler 
wasn’t anxious to make a fool of himself by allowing his laboratory to 
report a second until he was sure. (That’s responsible science!) After 
two years, he had isolated the substance from other places, too, and 
finally came to the conclusion that it was an authentic discovery. 

Because cell nuclei seemed to be particularly rich in the substance. 


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it was called “nuclein.” Later, as its chemistry was better worked out, it 
became “nucleic acid.” 

For the rest of the story, see the cindereela c;oMmuNO (F&SF, April 
1973). To sum up, beginning in 1944, nucleic acid — particularly the 
variety known as “deoxyribonucleic acid” (DNA) — is now viewed as 
the key to life and its fundamental component. It is the blueprint for 
protein construction, and it is the proteins (especially those that are 
enzymes) that control the chemistry of the cell and makes the differ- 
ence between thee and me, and between either of us and an oak tree, or 
an amoeba. 

It would probably be oversimplifying the matter, but I am strongly 
tempted to say, “All life is nucleic acid; the rest is commentary.” 

( I can’t help but think of Coeurl, the felinoid monster in A. E. van 
Vogt’s great story “Black Destroyer,” who lived on a planet from which 
all the phosphorus had sunk into unavailability — and then he sensed 
the phosphorus in the bones of the human explorers that had just ar- 
rived by spaceship. And that appeared in 1939, well before the impor- 
tance of nucleic acid was understood. ) 



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Michael Shea’s latest is a comic nightmare set in the near future 
and concerning the shooting of a movie: an alien invasion flick 
featuring man-eating spiders . . . 


The Extra 

BY 

MICHAEL SHEA 


W 

■V W hat made me decide to 
go down and sign up for a movie? It 
was as casual as could be. One day 
the notion was nowhere near my 
mind, and the next morning I was do- 
ing it. 

I was hanging out at the zoo — 
where else? — with all the other 
monkeys. I was leaning against the 
wall between Vic’s Liquors and Fred- 
die Photon’s Fast Holo Hut, and lis- 
tening as hard as I could to try to 
catch what I was thinking, which 
seemed to be nothing much. And a 
friend of mine stepped up, Japhet 
Starkey, white dude, a big grin on 
him. 

“Hey, Professor,” he said. “You 
look deep, babe. Wbat’s the haps?” 

“Hey, blood. You look high and 
bright. Doing yourself some good?” 

He gave me a wise look, lots of 
heavy eyebrow. “You just said it, Ru- 


fiis. That’s exactly what I’m doing.” 

Down along the wall from us, a 
peaceful little shakedown that had 
been going on struck some .sparks 
and flared up in a brawl. The crowd 
swelled out to make some watching 
room. It picked us up and washed us 
along the balcony, past the Holo Hut 
all the way to the Digital Dominoes 
Den. Japhet shouted in my ear: “Now 
we can grab some rail!” 

So we worked our way across the 
balcony. 1 never .swam before I got 
here, but it was like swimming. Your 
moves had to be firm but smooth; you 
had to stroke your way through. Oth- 
erwise someone you stepped too hard 
on might pull you under and stomp 
you. We made it to the .shaft and 
leaned on the rail. A brawl or shoot- 
ing farther in always cleared spaces 
out at the rail. 

“So what it is,” Japh told me. “I’m 


The Extra 


139 



going down tomorrow and sign up 
for a movie.” 

Now I was the one making eye- 
brows. “Fool! Why you wanna do 
that?” 

And he just laughed and waved his 
arm at the shaft. Not that 1 needed 
the answer. Thirty more stories of bal- 
conies over us, twenty below, all the 
rails jammed with welfare monkeys 
like us, all the walkways crisscrossing 
the shaft at every level jammed with 
more of same. Even the air in the 
shaft was jammed, packed so tight 
with zoo noise you could reach over 
the rail and tear off a handful of it. 
You could hear gun.shots over it pret- 
ty well, though, and we did, just then. 
We look up and see a guy come sail- 
ing over the rail six or seven levels 
up. 

“Third one down!” Japh shouted. 

“Fourth down!” I shouted, be- 
cause 1 judged the guy’s arc to be a 
little flatter than Japh did. But he was 
right: guy jounced off the rail of the 
third walkway below us before he 
snapped back out and kept falling. So 
1 double-palmed Japh and gave him a 
food credit. 

“So what’s the flick?” I asked him. 

“Alien Web." 

“Sure, 1 said. “Pluton Studios. His- 
torical sci-fi, set in the late twentieth, 
alien invasion flick.” 1 had a kind of 
name for always being in the library, 
and I liked to play up to it. I only read 
the dailies now and then, but 1 liked 
the entertainment news and kept 


pretty good track of it. Japhet looked 
pleased, and sly. 

“That’s it, Rufus. That’s my ticket. 
And you could do it, too, hey? Why 
not?” 

“You some kind of crazy, Japh? — 
Motherfucker!” This I didn’t say to 
Japh, but because there was a hand in 
my pocket that wasn’t mine. I 
whipped around punching, and some 
sorry little blood in snakelocks 
backed off. He had a friend, but Japhet 
stepped in beside me, and they faded 
back into the crowd. 

“What are you sayin’ to me?” 1 
said to Japh. “You might be desper- 
ate, but I’m not. Not nearly. I’m not 
tired of living.” 

“Not tired of living here?” He was 
smiling. He looked serene. And 1 
realized then that he was going to do 
what he said, he really was. 

It rubbed me two ways at once. 1 
admired him, jacking his spirit for a 
gamble like that. It made me restless, 
made me want to do something for 
myself, too. But 1 liked to come up 
with things on my own. 1 didn’t like 
being jerked around by other people’s 
inspirations. 

“Not that tired,” I told him. “Tell 
me you ain’t serious. You even got 
tube fare out to the studios, fool?” 

“1, my good spook, have got tube fare 
for two." 

It moved me. You couldn’t count 
on staying together once you got into 
a movie, but it would make him feel a 
little more lucky not to be walking up 


140 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



to something like that alone. It would 
me, too. The whole proposition was 
starting to seem realer now, but I still 
felt too jacked around by it. 1 shook 
my head. 

“I.got my Aunt Harriet to look af- 
ter. Got to pick her up any minute 
now at the Hut.” 

“Hey. Rufiis. Buy her a decade in 
one of the Cinetrons. In two days, if 
you come back, you can buy both 
yourselves five or ten years on the 
farm.” 

“What station you be at? What 
time?” And I stood there asking my- 
self, Did I just say that? Japhet 
laughed, whacked my shoulder, and 
told me. 

“Don’t wait if I don’t show,” I told 
him. 

And that’s how simple it was, real- 
ly. My mind couldn’t swing with it 
without a fight, of course. I hadn't 
swum halfway back across the bal- 
cony before I shook my head and de- 
cided, Fuck this, there was no way I’d 
show tomorrow. But 1 couldn’t leave 
the idea alone. In the Hut I hung 
around watching the seniors trigger- 
ing away their last games before the 
three o’clock escort left. You’ve met 
Aunt Harriet — she’s pushing eighty, 
was my momma’s oldest sister out of 
nine. It always made me smile to see 
her blasting those fast holos, a mean 
peppery old lady full of fight. If she’d 
still had legs for running, she 
would’ve goen straight down to Plut- 
on Studios. What was I doing that had 


good legs, the last ones left in our 
family, that was down to just the two 
of us? 

The Hut had good escorts — well 
paid and would show some fight — 
which was why it was one of this lev- 
el’s senior hangouts. You couldn’t 
stay in your eight-by-ten all day, video 
and pap stamps or no video and pap 
stamps. I usually walked my aunt back 
anyway like a lot of the seniors’ family 
would do, because the escorts might 
be tough, but there was still only 
twelve of them. 

I didn’t have to use my sap today 

— no one tried to get past their 
shields and prods. We all stood on 
the belt out to our complex, and my 
aunt was raging and bitching about 
all her ailments, and I was scoffing 
and cussing her for being a sissy the 
way she liked me to do, and mean- 
while, what do you think 1 was think- 
ing about? About all the graffiti in the 
library books. 

That’s right. The tapes can’t be 
messed with, except for all the read- 
ing terminals being kicked to shit and 
half out of focus, but I liked to read 
the old books, too. A lot of them 
hadn’t been put on tape and never 
would be. The past’s so vast and the 
world’s so wide, right? The strangest 
things would pop out of those books 
and swell around you if you pried at 
the dim parts here and there with a 
dictionary. I won’t get started on it 

— it was a thing with me, a place 
where I could go to breathe. But that 


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141 



graffiti. I got a knack for reading, 
somehow, and I could follow text 
through so many layers of fiick-you’s 
and eat-me’s you wouldn’t believe it, 
but 1 didn’t have X ray. And there was 
no way around it either when you’d 
be reading along hot on something 
and come to that six or sixty pages 
that had been razored right out. So 
now 1 stood there thinking about 
those books, how trying to see what 
was in them was like trying to see out 
a dirty window. And that's what stay- 
ing here was — spending your life 
trying to .see something, anything, 
out of a cracked, dirty window. 

“Auntie,” I said, “I’m gonna buy 
you a decade at one of the Cinetrons.” 

“With what?” 

“My pap script. 1 be eating out 
tomorrow.” 

“Huh! You gonna leave me your 
sap? You know how mine hurt my 
hand now with this damn arthritis.” 

“Nope. I’m gonna leave you my 
roscoe.” 

"What?! Where the hell you goin’, 
Rufus, leavin' your roscoe?” 

“To a safe place, don’t need any 
gun. Can't take one in there anyway.” 

1 think that probably told her. 
“Huh! Safe place!” But she didn’t say 
anything el.se. She understood. 

Early next morning 1 took her to a 
Cinetron where she’d only seen four 
of the ten flicks running. 1 checked 
the food pack they gave her, went in 
and checked that her seat’s potty 
worked. One of the guards of her .sec- 


tion was a dude 1 knew, and 1 gave 
him my last two credits to keep an 
eye out for her. 1 gave her a kiss just 
before the lights went down. 1 had to 
say something, so 1 said: “'When I 
come back, maybe we go to the farm 
for a while.” 

She wouldn t look at me, and damn 
if there weren’t tears in her eyes. 
“You a good boy, Rufus,” she said. 

“You a nasty crusty little old lady,” 
I told her. My eyes got a little wet, 
too, going out of there, but I felt 
good, light and ready. So we just go 
down and see what happens, 1 told 
myself, but either way, fuck this zoo 
for good. 1 went on down to the sta- 
tion and found Japhet, and the way he 
grinned to see me made me feel bet- 
ter yet. 

When the tube pulled in, we 
hooked arms, saps in our free hands, 
and avalanched in with the crowd. 
We had good position, in line with 
the door. We were squeezed up off 
our feet and poured straight into the 
car. When the crowd spread to fill it, 
our feet touched down and we 
hugged a pole and held it. 

The tube took off. There was just 
enough room for someone to work a 
hand free and .start messing with my 
unit. 1 stomped some toes at a guess, 
and the hand pulled back. 1 helped 
Japh evict another hand from his 
pocket, and then we hit the next sta- 
tion. TTie big padded pneumatic pack- 
ers gently wedged antJther fifty peo- 
ple on board, and we didn’t have to 


142 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



protect anything after that because 
no one could move anything. We 
floated peacefully at two hundred 
klicks per, the weight shifts playing 
our ribs like squeeze-boxes on the 
curves. 

The studio had shuttles at the 
Seventh South Exurb station. Half our 
trainload seemed to be going to Plut- 
on. The shuttles filled up in five min- 
utes and drove off with us. 

It was always great to get outside. 
There it was all over you — the sky! It 
was pale yellow, and you could make 
out little clouds in it — real ones — 
here and there. There was even a 
breeze. It made my mind feel wide 
open, lucky. 

Some of that leaked away as we 
got near the set. The set has to scare 
you, whatever it looks like, if you’re 
an extra. This one was about a klick 
and a half square, late twentieth of- 
fice buildings and high-rise apart- 
ments sticking up out of it along with 
church steeples, power poles, bill- 
boards, big trees here and there. You 
couldn’t really see into it because it 
was walled, and also pretty well sur- 
rounded by the studio buildings. A 
bunch of small aircraft were swarm- 
ing around above it — two different 
styles, the aliens and the home team. 
Special Effects was limbering its ro- 
bots for the air battle. 

They let us off at the studio can- 
teen just outside one of the big gates 
in the set’s wall. The call was for two 
thousand extras, and the shuttles 


could bring back the quota in one 
more trip to the station. They drove 
back, and we went in to breakfast. I 
had bacon and coffee. Real! I can’t 
tell you. Japh and me sat there chew- 
ing and staring at each other, stupe- 
fied. Other people had eggs, pancakes 
— no could believe it. The noise was 
happy. People kept shouting jokes 
like: “Hey, I don’t got a copy of the 
script yet!’’ — and everyone laughed 
at them over and over. 

The Costume Department had big 
processing trailers pulled up outside 
when they filed us out. We went in 
raw at one end and came out ready at 
the other. First a strip search. Then 
repairs on people looking too out- 
rageously zoo — old style shirts to 
hide tit rings, hats to bag snakelocks, 
scrapeoffs for facepaint. You got shoes 
if you thought yours weren’t good for 
running. The crews were ace, sized 
you at a look. I was out in twenty 
minutes — I just needed my Day-Glo 
throat tattoo painted over. The sec- 
ond load of extras was already in the 
canteen when they sent us on out to 
the bleachers. 

The bleachers were set up near 
the gate with an empty speaking plat- 
form in front of them. There wasn’t 
all that much to watch while we 
waited for the rest. A lot was going 
on around us, but mostly in the build- 
ings where all the communications 
and monitors and ma.ster controls 
were. There were crews of techs zip- 
ping around in their little carts, and 


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maintenance trucks driving in and 
out the gate. Some of the camera rafts 
were testing their air cushions, drop- 
ping fast to the ground on a big 
whoosh of blowers. They don’t land 
outright for payoffs. They can get 
back up to hover a fraction faster off 
the air cushion, and camera time’s 
everything in these big one-take 
shoots. People in the bleachers want- 
ing to sound pro about being an extra 
kept calling the rafts moneyboats. If 
any were vets, they weren’t passing 
out any tips. How could it help here 
any'way, what they’d found on other 
sets in different stories? 

Now the last of the second load 
was taking seats, and the costume 
trailers were closing up. Everyone 
was talking about the script and what 
the aliens might be, and since no one 
knew shit about either one, it made 
lively conversation. Two trucks came 
out of the gate, and a team of Actors 
Guild reps and studio people got out 
of the first one. They stood around 
the platform, and the guild’s mediator 
walked up onto it. 

She was a young honey, dressed 
very zoo, hair in snakes and all her 
tattoos on one arm with a see-through 
sleeve on it and her other arm bare. I 
wanted to laugh. For sure she had a 
condo somewhere uptown. 

“Man!” Japhet grinned. “A nice, 
fat, do-nothing yofe.” 

That was the truth. Guild reps 
never got sweaty driving a bargain. 
Where was the room for parley with 


the studios? It was simple economics, 
like this: For some reason, all you 
chimps on these benches want mon- 
ey; and furthermore, not a chimp of 
you’d be on these benches if you had 
any kind of job at all or any chance to 
ever get one. Right? Right! So here’s 
the terms. 

The honey said she and the rep 
team had just finished their drive- 
through, and the set was up to the 
contract’s specs. She gave us the wise 
eyeball saying it, like we were all zoo 
together and no one snuck any shit 
past her. She skinned down the specs 
to us from her pocket display. 

We learned plenty, but it was the 
APPs, the refuges, and the weapons 
that made up the gist of the odds. The 
Anti Personnel Properties were the 
aliens. There were a thousand of 
them. They weighed eighty-five kilos 
and ran as fast as a healthy man. They 
had no projectile weaponry and had 
to get hold of you to kill you. Then 
the refuges. In the set, one out of ten 
of all the doors, gates, and other en- 
tryways could actually be opened. 
Half of these led into actual rooms 
that were “viable for defense,” and 
three-quarters of these contained 
“some implement viable as a weap- 
on.” 

We’d get a half hour pre-shoot 
run-through of the set to spock out 
resources and survival plans. The 
shoot would last an hour. The pot 
was twenty million, split by the sur- 
vivors. The bonus for killing an APP 


144 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



was ten thousand, paid at the scene 
hy the camera rafts when you gave 
them your kill’s claim tag. Any cash 
already in the pockets of survivors 
when they reached the paygate was 
theirs. This was an arty touch. Say you 
want real turmoil in those streets? 
Muggings in the middle of alien 
death? 

A cart pulled up a trailer with a 
whole rack of terminals mounted on 
it. They called us down by rows to 
feed in our IDs and give the screens 
our thumbprints. So technically we 
were signing before reading the con- 
tract, because they gave us our copies 
of it at the same time, but no one was 
going to read it anyway — damn few 
even could. The last people had bare- 
ly got back to their seats with it when 
she said: “O.K. Everyone’s read it? So 
fine. This is last call. Back out now if 
you’re going to, and we’ll erase your 
consent. Notice the police vans pull- 
ing up over there. It’s a felony, ten to 
fifteen, to break contract after you 
hear the buzzer. All right, then.” The 
buzzer buzzed. “Time to get to work. 
Mr. Martini from the studio is going 
to run one of the APPs through its 
paces for you now. Best of luck to 
each and every one of you.” 

Martini had a waxed scalp and a 
trendy green jumpsuit — twinkly 
smile, and a down-to-business voice. 
“All right, gang. These APPs home on 
body heat, a standard infrared per- 
ception kit. They’ve got crude vibra- 
tional pickups, but they don’t mean 


much in heavy activity zones. George, 
will you open the truck? They’ve got 
about the same mass as some of you 
bigger guys, but they can exert a lot 
of leverage in the clinch.” 

George opened the tail of the sec- 
ond truck, and out of it jumped a big 
flop-eared dog. It busted up the 
bleachers. Relief, right? I mean, it was 
a huge dog, but it was a dog. Another 
studio man called it over in front of 
the bleachers and told it to sit. It sat 
without a twitch. Then George did 
some keying on a little unit at his 
belt, stepping back from the truck, 
and Martini said, “It’s on override 
now, kids, so keep your seats and save 
your energy.” 

And a spider jumped out of the 
truck. It was a little bigger than a man 
on all fours would be, but with a 
much wider spread to its legs. It was 
covered with spiky brown hair except 
for the flat front section, where all 
the legs and eyes were attached, and 
that was a shiny black. It moved tickle- 
foot, light as a dancer. 

“This is about two-thirds speed, 
and the leap at the end is its usual 
attack mode,” Martini said, and the 
thing ran straight at the dog and 
jumped it from about two meters off. 
“The fangs hypo it with a paralytic, 
then with a powerful solvent, and 
then suck out the solute.” 

The forelegs snatched the dog off 
the ground, and as the fangs sank in, 
the dog gave a huge twitch that would 
have knocked a big man down, but 


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145 



didn’t budge the spider. Then the 
dog went stiff, and hung there with 
just little tremors of its head and 
paws. That was a seventy-five-kilo dog. 
Martini wasn’t kidding about leverage 
in the clinch. 

The bleachers were empty-quiet. 
I heard someone swallow two rows 
away. “The feeding cycle takes about 
five minutes. They will complete their 
cycle unless a new quarry comes very 
close to them, so don’t just go charg- 
ing cavalierly past APPs you find 
feeding.” The dog had puffed up and 
its tremors died out. Now it started 
shrinking back down, the APP tilting 
it this way and that for better drain- 
age. “Each one has two call tags — 
they’re the two biggest eyes in front 
of the cluster. Tearing either one free 
will call a raft. Throw it into the raft, 
and they’ll throw you your bonus. A 
final caution. See the tag-along?” 

Probably no one had till then — 
a little fist-sized antigrav unit above 
and behind the belly bulb. It started 
making wide circles over the APP. 
“When the APP goes into attack 
mode, the tag-along starts circling for 
angles, so we don’t get too much foot- 
age that’s strictly from the alien’s 
point of view. It’s got collide/avoid, 
but if you jump in its way, it can give 
you a knock. A very remote hazard, 
but we feel a responsibility to advise 
you of it.” 

“Stop!” someone .shouted. “I’m 
getting all choked up!” 

That cracked the ice on the 


bleachers a little. People started talk- 
ing, their eyes on that shrinking dog, 
and Martini looked patient and let 
them. It was cold, scared talk, leading 
nowhere, just telling each other what 
was right in front of us, trying to 
make our minds grip hold of it, like 
hugging poison thorns. 

“Two-thirds speed,” Japh said. 

“Yeah. I wish 1 been doing three 
hours a day on the treadmill, Japh. 
For the last solid year.” 

“I have been, the last week any- 
way. You’re in shape, Rufe. Better 
wind than me.” 

“Christ Creeping Jesus.” 

“Yeah.” 

The dog looked to weigh about 
twelve kilos now, all hollows and 
folds. Like you could tack his paws to 
a pole and he’d flap in the wind like a 
flag. 

“O.K., gang! We’ll show you full 
speed now. George?” 

The spider dropped the dog, spun, 
ran back to the truck, and jumped in. 
You never heard such quiet. Four 
thousand eyeballs scoping that burst 
of speed, two thousand brains asking 
their legs: Well? Can you? Those stu- 
dio techies had calibrated it right to 
the hair between hope and horror. I 
can, I thought. But around turns? Zig 
and zag? For an hour? But with a head 
start and hideouts .... 

Some people found a more definite 
answer than I did. While we were 
lined up for transports to take us to 
the run-through, fifty or sixty people 


146 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



walked straight over to the cops and 
got in the prison vans. Our driver 
standing by his door said: 

“That’s the biggest walk-off 1 ever 
heard of.” 

“You’re breaking my heart,” the 
guy in front of me said. 

“’s O.K., they called a hundred 
over need.” 

“Extra extras,” 1 said. “Man, you 
makin’ me feel su/terfluous.” 

He stamped our hands with our 
transport number. The four of them 
would send us in at four different 
gates, then we’d reboard and go to a 
new gate. Whatever you’d scouted on 
the run-through you’d have to find 
from a new angle going in for the 
shoot. Everyone colliding on criss- 
cross paths to some piece of hope 
they’ve got squirreled away, if they 
can just get to it in time. Establishes 
the perfect ambience of impending 
holocaust, don’t you think? 

Just inside the gate we turned and 
drove into a big fluorescent utility 
tunnel build into the set wall. I kept 
thinking: zoo meat. This phony city 
in a box was like a zoo — the old 
kind, I mean. Caged specimens of ur- 
ban history. This zoo just rented its in- 
mates — we gave a short, peppy 
demonstration of the habitat’s haz- 
ards, and fed some of the other ten- 
ants. We were zoo food, zoo-bred for 
that authentic flavor. 

And we’d all spent years of our 
lives scanning flicks like this one 
would be. They’d been our main brain 


food. So in a way we owed the studios. 
It was just common karma to end up 
doing our bit for the Product, or may- 
be it was like reincarnation. And hey 
— what else were we qualified for? 
Being streetmeat is the only job you 
can get with a Ph.D. in Urban Horror. 
And somehow it scared me hollow, 
this nagging feeling I belonged here. 

We passed several gates before 
we stopped at ours. They got us out 
and formed us up in front of it. We 
could try any entry we saw — door, 
gate, or window. But any refuge we 
found, we could only check out for 
ten seconds and then had to get back 
in the street — the rafts would be 
dogging us. Japh and I both judged 
that covering ground and scoping lay- 
out came first. Why weasel out re- 
fuges you couldn’t find again from 
your .shoot gate? We would split left 
and right, just inside, run the rim for 
five minutes or so, then swing out 
across the set, come back up along 
the far wall, and try to come straight 
back across to our gate. We’d hunt 
hideouts once we got some feel for 
the blueprint, but would waste no at- 
tention on blocks that blinded at the 
wall, which we meant to stay out of. 
Back in the transport we’d stitch our 
two maps together. There was a siren. 
The gate slid up. 

We ran out onto a block of shop- 
fronts and office buildings — ten and 
twelve stories, mid-twentieth style. 
Parked cars packed the curbs, and as 
many more stood in the lanes. We 


The Extra 


147 



looked back at the closing gate as we 
ran. Display screen surfaced this side 
of it, and its image fit neat as a jigsaw 
piece into a video, masking the wall 
and extending the street for blocks 
behind us. it was a work of art. It was 
seamless. Even this close, you were 
only sure where the wall was because 
the video already had APPs chasing 
the crowd on its sidewalks, and its 
traffic was rolling, and tangling in 
smashups. And no top edge to the 
wall — projection holos caulked the 
seam with yellow sky. At the first 
cross street, Japh ran left and I ran 
right. 

I’d read cities in the eighties and 
nineties had jumbled ground-plans 
and no-logic layouts, but they couldn’t 
have been this radical. I ran between 
fifty-story buildings with glass and 
steel walls like huge mirrors, crossed 
a street, and was in rat-brown wooden 
slums with weed lots, then between 
an amusement park and a block-long 
video of beach and surf and spider- 
pinned sunbathers kicking the sand, 
then past car lots webbed over with 
acres of bright plastic flags. No block 
clued you to what was around its 

corners. You’d come to a crossing 

that looked like a main line, six lanes 
and blazing with signals, but to the 
right you’d find a parking lot con- 
tinued on into a wall-video of a stadi- 
um standing in a sea of parked cars, 
and to the left would be thirty meters 
of blind alley full of trash bins. 

Those wall-videos scared me. They 


were too fucking good, and I tried for 
a brain-print of each one I passed. I 
wasn’t trying doors till I left the pe- 
rimeter, but most of the others were 
trying everything in sight. The fighters 
were sparring higher now to let the 
rafts ride herd at roof level. I’he rafts 
bullhorned countdowns at refuges 
people had found and gone in to 
check out. Without slowing down, I 
tried to keep track of the finds I .saw 
made, especially parked cars, which 
people were giving a lot of their ac- 
tion. One out of five had doors that 
worked, and half those had motors 
and five minute’s gas in them. The 
rub was the cars in the streets. They 
were robots. For the shoot, they’d 
start driving themselves into fancy 
collisions. They had plastic people in 
them wearing scream-twisted, going- 
to-die faces for the close-ups. Those 
faces were reading us the traffic fore- 
cast for this afternoon. On the other 
hand, running down APPs with some 
wheels looked like the only painless 
bonus buck to be made. 

I turned in from the wall, started 
my zigzag across the set, trying doors 
now. I had my pace, and a nice sweat 
oiled my moves. It was tricky to keep 
a Straight heading because it turned 
out that wall-videos blinded off some 
streets in the inner set, too. That real- 
ly dimmed my outlook. In a hurry you 
could really start losing track of 
where the perimeter was at all. I felt 
better when I’d made a few finds. A 
working car in a shopping mail’s lot. 


148 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



A movie house with outside stairs to 
a working door — the room was 
bare, no door latch, but I could 
shoulder it shut. And best of all, in a 
block of houses with lawns and trees, 
a cellar door with stairs down to a 
room with only one thing in it — but 
that was a chain saw. It occurred to 
me maybe it was the riskier doors — 
ones that might trap you down a hole 
or up some stairs — that the studio 
liked to put its refiiges behind. 

When the rafts called twenty-five 
minutes. I’d already swung back up to 
the latitude our gate ought to lie on. I 
headed back, swinging left down a 
wide street of burger stands, gas sta- 
tions, liquor stores. I’d try to beeline, 
see how close I’d gauged the lay of 
things. If 1 reached the wall within a 
couple blocks either side of our gate, 
I could trust how I’d read the ground 
plan so far. 

In the garage of a gas station up 
ahead, I saw a jacked-up car and a 
man’s legs sticking out from under it. 
The legs started kicking and hammer- 
ing. A spider crawled out, dragging 
the guy on his back, just as a car 
turned onto the street at eighty klicks, 
skated over, jumped the curb, rammed 
the pumps, and blew up the station. 
Even before my balls had dropped 

back into their bags, it clicked that 

none of this had made a sound. I was 
twenty meters short of trying to jog 
down a video street. I doubled back 
and tried the next street over. Anoth- 
er video. Third try the same. This was 


the perimeter wall! Already? 

The rafts called the return. We 
were supposed to start following the 
first raft we saw flagged with our 
transport number. I could see two of 
mine, both headed exactly opposite 
to me. Td gone looking for my gate 
on the far side of town from it. 

They gave us ten minutes to sit in 
the transport, test and talk, before 
pulling out. Did we talk! Almost every- 
one was buddied or teamed up. No 
big groups, though. You’d only share 
lucrative lifesaving info with a few 
people you trusted to help you. Japh 
had gone half as wrong as I had, just 
ninety degrees confused at the end. 
We didn’t try for a map, just described 
each other the refuges we’d found 
and their neighborhoods, and hoped 
to steer each other if we hit stretches 
either of us knew. 

The driver shut the doors. He 
used the P.A., his back to us but his 
voice bright and sociable. “Ladies and 
gentlemen. Pluton Studios reminds 
you of clause 1 6-C. Any props you use 
for defense or escape, you use at your 
own risk. The stated refuge and weap- 
ons quotas are 100 percent present 
and available out there, but so is a lot 
of nonviable stuff. Extras misled by 
appearances and utilizing nonviable 
properties are solely responsible for 
all consequences of that misuse, so a 
word to the wise. Pluton Studios, in 
the sincere hope that you will return 
to work for them again, would also 
like to give you a handy rule of thumb. 


The Extra 


149 



Team up, cooperate — that’s fine. 
But keep in mind that the bigger the 
group, the stronger the heat signal 
and the farther it carries. I’m sure you 
see the point. And lastly. Pluton Stu- 
dios would like to remind you that 
there is an air battle in progress 
throughout the shoot. The fighters 
are built to fragment minutely, min- 
imizing danger to people working on 
the set. But there will be those oc- 
casional one- and two-kilo fragments 
coming down all over the area, and 
there are scheduled those two dozen 
or so collisions of entire aircraft with 
set buildings, which arc going to 
generate a certain amount of fast, siz- 
able debris. So heads up, ladies and 
gentlemen, and the best of luck to 
you all on the shoot.” 

As we pulled away, an even bigger 
transport than ours pulled up in our 
place, a tractor cab towing a big wire 
cage full of spiders. It boiled with 
them, climbing and wrestling and 
tickling each other. The sight killed 
all the talk in our transport. All those 
bristly sensors in that boil, all restless- 
ly touching and tasting the air and 
each other. You can’t turn off the 

heat of your own meat, can’t hide it 

either. And you got hotter the harder 
you ran from them — your escape 
shouted out to them. Here / am, here.' 
Were we really all going to jump 
bare-assed into the zoo with those 
things? 

We drove past several gates. From 
outside, the set had looked square. 


but this tunnel took a lot of slight 
bends and never seemed to turn a 
real corner. The driver kept changing 
our speed, too, and when we got to 
our shoot gate, we just couldn’t de- 
cide how it related to the run-through 
gate’s place on the rim. Our spiders 
were already there. They formed us 
up at the gate, but our eyes kept 
flickering back to the APPs. They 
swarmed walls, roof, and floor of the 
cage, thinning here, clotting up there 
in clumps and then dropping off like 
ftnit. Exploring machines, groping the 
world nonstop for a piece they could 
bite. With nothing better to work on, 
they groped each other over and over, 
trading tickles with the tips of the 
two short legs next to their fangs. 
You saw them at it everywhere. 

“Attention, please.” The guy at 
the gate control used his bullhorn. 
“You will have three minutes’ head 
start. When the gate opens, wait for 
my signal.” He hit a switch, and the 
gate slid up. 

We were looking dowm a five-lane 
freeway, walled by huge videos of 
cityscape seen from thirty or forty 
meters off the ground. A light flashed 

on the gateman’s controls; he said, 

“NowV’ — and we ran. 

The freeway stretched ahead out 
of sight, but after a few hundred me- 
ters, we broke through a wall of color, 
and suddenly we were running be- 
tween a mall and a drive-in movie 
with some high-rises just ahead. The 
holo we’d crossed was just a faint haze 


ISO 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



from this side, and the blind block of 
freeway videoed on out to the vanish- 
ing point behind us, except that right 
now it had a square hole in it, a cube 
of real space full of APPs. 

Japh and I ran straight for three 
blocks to get good and clear of the 
rim, then branched right when Japh 
thought that way looked familiar. 
We’d agreed to go flat out till the 
APPs were in, build up maximum 
lead, and hope a refuge we knew 
turned up in the process. Once they 
started in after us, we’d have to de- 
celerate enough to hunt hideouts as 
we went. Japh didn’t look like this 
street still felt familiar. 

“That it?” 

“No.” 

“Steeple there .... Try left.” 

“Right.” 

The fighters just hung in a standby 
pattern now. Under them the rafts 
fidgeted around in their sectors for 
perfect position, or cruised to scout 
how the meat-stampede was branch- 
ing into the maze. 

It wasn’t the same steeple, but the 
church faced a park that had a rack of 
bicycles in it, no chains on them. We 
veered over. No chains, and no mov- 
ing parts. Nothing looked familiar 
from here, so we ran to get deeper in 
from the wall, down a brick-paved 
mall with fountains. One second there 
was just the hammering of our feet 
on bricks as we got near the other 
end, then someone started cranking 
steel girders through a giant meat 


grinder in the sky. It was the fighters’ 
cannons, all at once, and their engines 
howling into battle drive. And then a 
gravel truck jumped the curb and di- 
nosaured into the mall at us. 

“They’re in!” Japh screeched, and 
the truck blew up against a fountain. 
We dodged past it and down a street 
of banks and hotels where the robot 
traffic rolled at full roar. 

In one block we saw two head-ons, 
and a bus broadsided a transit mix at 
the intersection. It stunned my wits 
all the worse because knowing the 
game was on now had just made it 
click for me; we came in from four 
gates, but what about the APPs? Were 
there forty in that cage? Fifty? Why 
hadn’t it hit me? They’d be coming 
from twenty gates, and in no time at 
all every turn was going to be a wrong 
one. We saw a woman fire up a curb- 
side car and ace it out into a traffic 
gap — but then take a big chunk of 
fighter square on the glass, jump the 
line, and wrap her ride onto the nose 
of a tank truck that wore it all the way 
down the block like a hood ornament. 
Hot fighter crumbs drizzled little 
holes down through my hair. A guy 
running ahead of us reached the 
corner, braked on his heels, spun 
around, and wham — dropped flat 

down under a spider. His hand stuck 

out from the legs that jailed him and 
clawed the sidewalk, and a raft coast- 
ed down to suck up a zoom shot. I 
would’ve pissed myself at the sight 
of that first APP, but my water was 


The Extra 


151 



all gone in sweat. 

We ran back to the last corner and 
took it wide, then went pounding 
down a street of high-rises. A spider 
danced out of an alley mouth and 
came pistoning toward us. Japh howl- 
ed, flung himself on the nearest 
parked car, and it opened. We piled 
in and shut the doors — no controls, 
a dummy. The APP jumped onto the 
hood, bellied up over the windshield, 
and worked its fangs into the front 
edge of the roof Its bulb waggled and 
bobbed with the work, flattening its 
hair on the glass like the fur of a pet- 
ted dog. Its fangs were oily black 
with a pinch like bolt cutters. They 
shredded off the strip of roof The 
fucking chassis was barely thicker 
than foil! 

“Out both sides at once!” Japh 
said. I grabbed his arm. 

“Wait. When it’s more tied up in 
it.” 

The rest of the block looked clear 
of APPs. Some extras tore around the 
far corner. The lead guy waved his 
arms, and they all started kicking at 
the window of a hardware store. The 
window caved in, and they climbed 
through as the APP tore a second lit- 
tle Strip off our roof and then hooked 
its fangs in around the windshield’s 
frame and strained backward. Cracks 
webbed the glass, and the frame’s 
corner started tearing free. 

“Now!” Both of us screamed it. 
We shouldered our doors out and 
dived. Mine was the street side, and a 


robot van’s driver was aiming his per- 
manent scream at me from almost 
point-blank when I tucked and rolled 
hard for the centerline, hit it, hugged 
it, and made myself narrow with all 
my might while big tires bissed in- 
timately in both my ears. The same 
instant a gap made room on my left, I 
jumped up and jammed down the 
line, one eye out for an opening to 
break right for the far curb, and the 
other eye watching the APP launch 
itself from the hood, clear — by a 
bristle — the boom of a very fast tow 
truck, and plop on the line behind 
me. 

I broke right through half an open- 
ing, a taxi polished a corner of its 
bumper on my pants leg, and my 
shoulder slammed a cofFin-size dent 
in a parked mobile home. I heard a fat 
smack and mushy crunching and saw 
a robot limousine proceeding on past 
the spot where the APP had tried 
breaking right after me through less 
than half an opening. You couldn’t 
tell how I hated touching it to see me 
run and tear off that eyeknob. 

I jumped on the sidewalk waving 
it, screeching, “Bonus! Bonus!”, look- 
ing for other APPs and for Japh at the 
same time. A raft had been splitting 
its cameras between me and the hard- 
ware store and was already slanting 
down to me, when I spotted both at 
once: Japh, facedown near our car, 
and another APP, feeding on his back 
— and right then three more APPs 
took the far corner in a commotion 


152 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



of peaked, pumping legjoints, and 
swarmed in through the hardware 
store’s broken glass. And as the raft 
came down on its air pad with its fat 
little director squeaking: “Beautiful 
sequence! Such moves!”, 1 took a new 
look at the block’s other end, and 
there was still another APP high-step- 
ping around that corner. 

“Throw me the fucking bonus!” I 
screamed. 

“Throw us the fucking tag!” 
squeaked Fats. 1 flung it up, but had 
to take off in the same move because 
my new APP had twiddled his short- 
legs and rushed me. “Keep running!” 
Fats called. O.K., no problem. O.K. 
with you, legs? “Here it comes!” — 
this was from overhead. A packet of 
bills dropped past my eyes, but not 
past my hands. Near the hardware 
store 1 veered into the street, and 
passing saw two APPs inside crouched 
on struggling man-parts, and a girl jab- 
bing the third one with a pitchfork 
that snapped like candy in her hands. 
My APP was angling out to jump me 
at the intersection, when a big wom- 
an powering in from the right tangled 
its legs and tumbled it out into the 
street. Me, 1 danced. Danced stop-go, 
left-right, neck-deep in robots missing 
me from four directions. My brain 
swelled up and just ballooned away 
as my feet found sidewalk and danced 
me off into the Zoo-meat Ballet, that 
marvelous new must-see from Pluton, 
now playing citywide. 

Panic doesn’t quite say it. It was 


like Japh’s being killed had shrunk 
me. When we’d have to put our backs 
together in the zoo, I trusted his eyes 
and sap back there like my own, felt 
doubled for trouble. Now I felt a 
dead, shriveled patch between my 
shoulders, right where Japh hadn’t 
been covered. I couldn’t stop spin- 
ning around in mid-run, couldn’t look 
one way without checking every- 
where else the next second, tried ev- 
ery door one minute and forgot doors 
the next. 1 ran blocks I might have 
known or not. I was too scaled down 
to scope a whole street, my eyes at 
short focus and clock on split sec- 
onds. Now I was nothing but an extra, 
a scrambling detail in someone else’s 
big screen thrill. 

The action got thicker. The APPs 
ring was closing in toward the heart 
of the set. Pluton had programmed 
the heaviest traffic, gaudiest smash- 
ups, thickest air battle here. We were 
running in dozens now, in streams 
you had to veer with wherever a 
spider or crashing fighter dropped a 
dam. We came pouring into the big- 
gest open space I’d seen yet. 

It was a long downtown park with 
a half dozen streets branching off it. 
The traffic ran solid all ways at once, 
like a band saw strung through a maze 
and thrashing to slash down the wall 
of it. Down every street, you saw in- 
bound APPs and extras, but everyone 
coming in one street was running to 
leave by the others. All those pump- 
ing legs and arms contradicting each 


The Extra 


153 



other, all their directions canceling 
out. The people made one big explo- 
sion that couldn’t spread its outline 
by a hair — that was shrinking. Spi- 
ders fed everywhere, peeling roofs 
off cars, picnicking under the trees. 
The rafts skated all over it making 
greedy dives and dips, like spoons at 
a stew, and blown fighters salted the 
pot with hot debris. 

The scope of it bounced me back, 
knocked some of myself back into 
me. It was mass paralysis in motion. 
Running into that would be like 
climbing through the big screen, say- 
ing: Hey, boys, write me all the way 
in. I’ll run till the freeze frame and 
end with the credits. No. Try a door 
at all costs. Any door. That door. 

It was near a corner, a glass door 
with stairs behind it up to a second- 
story dress shop with dummies in the 
window. It opened. I charged up like 
a fool, right through the blind turn- 
ing halfway, like the door at the top 
was the way out of the trance I’d 
been in — and that opened, too. And 
there on the floor of a long bone-bare 
room was an ax. I grabbed it. Heavy! 
Whunk — it bit the floor just fine. 1 
breathed. Shook knots from my legs. I 
was dressed, naked in track shoes no 
more. 

The door was wood, not thick, no 
latch. 1 could shoulder it shut against 
an APP. If it couldn’t outpu.sh me, it 
would chew off the door pretty quick 
and I’d have to fight. Maybe I could 
.swing an ax as fast as I’d .seen APPs 


jump. I should have an alternative. 

O.K., so rig a window exit. Then 
stay here and run out the shoot-clock 
right down to the .second an APP tore 
the last piece of door off I didn't like 
being the room’s length from the 
door fixing the exit, but APPs had 
hard little hooks for feet you could 
hear on pavement, let alone coming 
up wooden stairs. So 1 went over to 
the three dummies in the window. 
That made four of us. 

I sawed seams with the ax bit, but 
tearing those dresses was tough, and 
the noise of it ripped pieces out of 
my concentration on sounds from 
the stairs. I’d just need support half- 
way down, but this was a second story 
and the strips had to be doubled be- 
cause I’d hit the rope hard. 

I could see part of the sidewalk 
outside my street door, but the big 
movie in the square kept grabbing my 
eye. The set was the script, and my 
zoofellows gave life to the scenes 
built into it through sheer inspiration. 
Two guys found a parked bus they 
could force the doors of, and the 
bigger guy found controls at the 
wheel while his partner fought off a 
group forcing in after them that had 
APPs too close on their tails to be 
shut out. but a half dozen people 
swarmed in over him before the big 
guy fired up the bus. Then he started 
thrashing like suddenly he couldn’t 
move, the bus roared them all out in- 
to the stream, hit seventy clicks for a 
sharp left turn that toppled it, skated 


154 


Fantjisy & Science Fiction 



on sparks smash into a power pole, 
and lay there. APPs started climbing 
it, its doors flopped open, and they 
poured themselves through and 
plopped on the groggy meat. Knots, 1 
told my hand. Make knots. 

1 was tying my strips now. I saw a 
girl charge straight into a duck pond 
in the park, and the APP that was 
chasing her cringe from the water 
and sit twiddling at her from the 
bank. She stopped and stood in the 
pool’s center — What was that on the 
stairs? Nothing. Knots, knots, knots. A 
man splashed out to stand with the 
girl and his APP stopped at the bank, 
too. An angle there? The dummies' 
stands were bolted to the floor. I 
bent and tied my rope to one, and a 
guy comes hugging his way up the 
neck of a lamppost I could just sec 
the top of. I straightened, and there 
were two more guys climbing below 
him, and spiders at the base twiddling 
but not climbing. Another angle. I 
could hug one of those suckers an 
hour and more. Seven people waist- 
deep in that pond now, and a whole 
ring of APPs — and right then they all 
waded in, and showed no trouble eat- 
ing in water at all. 

Were guys at the monitors jockey- 
ing APPs with override? That was con- 
tract violation! Or did the water just 
temporarily cool— Watching the 
movie. I’d almost missed a little 
brown flicker under my feet. I saw 
the last half of a spider pussyfoot to- 
ward my street door. 


Forget holding the door! Here was 
the exit, the sidewalk clear right now. 
I slammed my ax to the window and 
almost popped my shoulders out. 
See-through steel! Spider-scrabble 
rose to the turning, and I ran for the 
door. My feet were too loud and made 
weird echoes. I leaned on the door, 
but they kept on pounding — up the 
stairs. The scrabble stopped a couple 
meters from the door, then got busi- 
er, but not any nearer, with a scrub- 
bing noise of hairy bulk shifting on 
wood. I heard feet hammer up to the 
turn, a scream, a stumbling crash, 
shoes kicking and kicking a wall, and 
a long, deep groan that froze up half- 
way through. None of me moved, but 
if I’d squeezed any harder, that ax 
handle would’ve oozed out between 
my fingers. Out the window, all three 
guys had reached the lamppost’s neck. 
It tilted, slowly at first. It dropped 
sideways so smooth it seemed hinged 
at the base. A fighter blew up, and a 
big chunk .spanged off the window. 1 
never twitched. Then, slower than 
slow, I opened the door. 

The APPs bulb was to me, legs 
daintily tilting a stiff to its fangs. The 
stiff stared back at me, tiny twitchings 
around bis eyes, the tag-along snoop- 
ing near his face and circling away 
like a pestering fly. Then the street 
door creaked, and a new spider noise 
climbed the stairs. 

It poured into the turning, and 
froze. Shortlegs twiddled tip to tip. 
The first never stopped feeding. The 


The Extra 


155 



new one wheeled and scrabbled back 
down. I shut the door and made the 
window in a sneaking sprint. The spi- 
der was hustling away, tickling the air 
for new business. If 1 waited now, I’d 
think it over, so 1 charged back, 
opened the door, and jumped 

Ah, the leathery squish of its flat 
little headsection under my treads! 
Its knees jerked up around me and 
froze in a hairy nest. Now, out for the 
bonus and right back in. I’d do fine 
here. I had a new angle. 

But they brought the raft down 
mid-street so the director could keep 
his eye on developing shots in the 
park. Two APPs took the corner, cut 
me off from the door, and I ran with 
my money. 

They were chasing me away from 
the park, but not against any thick in- 
flow of APPs now. The ring had been 
closed, and they scattered back out 
now as survivors wormed free and 
made for the perimeter. That’s what I 
did. I gained lead on my APPs at every 
corner, till they swung after people 
who crossed the gap between us. It 
wasn’t my tired legs, but a lag in them 
— others had it, too. Hauling forty 
kilos of zoo-meat puree loads down 
the old springs. 

I saw lots of what I wanted, but 
always too much on the run to take it. 
I turned on a street that wasn’t prom- 
ising at all, extras running toward me 
just ahead of APPs. Then a fighter 
dragging a rope of smoke knifed down 
across them into a brick wall. Then I 


was looking at a quarter-block hill of 
bricks with the front half of an APP 
sticking out at one edge. I ran to it 
and started chopping a shortleg off. 
Whap, whap, whap — it plopped off. 
A bullhorn voice and a blast of air hit 
me together. I didn’t jump more than 
a meter. 

“What the hell are you doing? Just 
take the tag, asshole!” 

The director was a sleek little 
sweetie with micro ’staches crimped 
to bracket his mouthcorners, waving 
his free arm for emphasis. I stared. I 
tossed him a tag. He flung me the 
packet with a shoo-fly follow-through 
of his arm. I pocketed it, then he 
flung the packet with a get-away- 
from-here follow-through. I took the 
ax to the second shortleg. The studio 
cop fired a shot past my ear. The di- 
rector waved both arms, forgetting 
the horn now: “Stop that! You’re van- 
dalizing studio property! That’s a 
felony!” 

“Fuck you mean?” I shouted. “We 
can do what we want to them! What- 
ever we can!” 

“It’s dead already!” 

“I’m tiy'ing a trick with these 
things. This APP’s mine! I turned in 
the tag!” 

“What kind of retard are you? We 
can’t have some asshole running 
around with pedipalps in his hands! 
You’re screwing with the realism!” 

I had something; I knew it from 
his face. “You not thinking, fool! 
These aliens don’t see like we do, have 


156 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



to recognize each other with these 
things — say some guy cops the trick 
and saves his ass with it? What a plot 
twist, fool! What a cameo!” 

He was pure studio hack, and for 
just a second it snagged him, thinking 
he might be missing an angle that 
could jack him up the ladder. He got 
that sweaty, studio hack look, like he 
was thinking about farting but scared 
he might crap his pants. But he shook 
himself. No black zoo-meat going to 
tell him. “Touch that palp again and 
you’re under arrest here and now for 
defacement of studio property.” 

Under arrest for defacement of 
studio property. Somehow the idea of 
it just made my brain seize up. It 
jammed my wheels so hard my head 
rocked like I was punched. “You gray- 
meat booger!” I screamed. I grabbed 
a brick and flung it at him with all my 
might. 

I threw wild, way too low, and the 
brick punched through the screen of 
the suck-vent for the air cushion. I 
was almost killed. The raft flipped 
like a coin — wham, top-down on 
the street and hlang — bounce- 
flipped back over and sat on a car. 
The crew was flung out — Jesus, 
what a mess! — but the director’s 
foot caught in a camera support, and 
he dangled head down off the raft’s 
edge. A big billfold slicked from his 
pocket and smacked the pavement. 
And a spider crawled over the top of 
the brick hill. Hand to wallet — fat! 
— to pocket. Ax to second palp, one 


stroke. Grab the pair. Run. 

I had more than the APP to run 
from, and more to run for now. Rafts 
cut their cameras for setdowns. I 
wasn’t sure how long a dead APP’s 
tag-along kept shooting before switch- 
off and touchdown on the corpse. 
Had my donor’s been buried? They 
were so hard to spot. But either way, 
tag-along footage wasn’t monitored; 
it was retrieved with the units and 
culled later. I might be on the run 
this same day, but I could get out of 
here — walk this cash and split right 
through the pay gate. But only if no 
raft saw me with these palps. I had to 
get out of sight from the air. 

But this spider wasn’t carrying 
any puree in it — yet. Or my legs 
were fading. 1 couldn’t build lead to 
search cover, or even to turn and 
stand. We seemed to be out in the 
fringes, streets nearly empty — but 
then two rafts showed not far off, 
cruising for stray action. I made the 
next turn before they saw me. 

Into a blind alley full of barriers 
and trash bins. I slung a barrel in the 
APP’s way, crouched, stuck out both 
palps with one hand, and raised the 
ax in the other. 

It was coming in front legs high to 
take me. It stopped, lowered them, 
and got all twiddly. Now it came tic- 
klefoot, gently bobbing. Its palps 
pinched together to grope mine with 
their tips. It felt like stopping a tube 
train with a pap straw to hold off so 
much nightmare with those crooked 


The Extra 


157 



little things. Its fangs slicked in and 
out. It arched and hunkered and 
waggled its hulb. Was it grooving? 
Did I give good palp? How hard could 
1 bring down this ax with an arm that 
had hot welds instead of joints? That 
was when the APP I didn’t know 
about stepped out from behind a 
trash bin. 

It dragged a half-shriveled woman 
out with it, and stood tickling our air. 
It dropped her and ran toward us. 1 
stood nearest. 1 had to drop the ax. It 
was the hardest thing 1 ever did, and 
the fastest. I took one of the palps 
from my left hand and whipped it on 
APP-Two as it crowded up on my 
other side. APP-Two started feeling it 
up. 

I wasn’t giving good palp now — 
all three of us felt it. Their bobbing 
got sharper till they were both doing 
something more like push-ups — 
arch, squat, arch — and they frisked 
my tips faster and faster. I had cute 
shortlegs, sure, but something was 
missing from our relationship. They 
swung and checked each other out. 

Ah! Now here was some rich, full- 
bodied palp! Twiddle high, twiddle 
low. swing in a circle, and twiddle as 
you go. They had each other straight 
before I’d edged three steps toward 
the alley mouth — they had to check 
this gimp with the half-tickle again. 
APP-One was closer, and I poked it 
my pair; we twiddled high, twiddled 
low — but here was APP-Two, and 1 
panicked, and split the pair between 


them again. More push-ups and frus- 
trated frisking. We swung in a circle, 
then halfway back. All systems still 
not go. They had to check each other 
again, cutting me off from the alley 
mouth now. 

1 had to get in character! I’d had 
my stroke of insight into their motiva- 
tion, but I had to take off with it, had 
to make it play. APPs themselves made 
heat-blips in the size range of prey, so 
they’d had to be given some profes- 
sional ethics: never eat a heat-blip 
with palps. But palps made patterned 
moves that clicked their eat-switches 
all the way off and sent them after 
something else. I had to feel APP, 
move APP, now or never. Back they 
came. 

APP-Two first — I gave it both. Up, 
down — but now / swung us sideways 
and, as One came up, blocked it off 
with Two’s body. As One recircled, I 
broke and jumped it the pair — up, 
down, swing, and block out Two, still 
eager for more. Better! They still 
weren’t sure, but now they phased 
into my rhythm. Two came in for 
more — and APP Number Three 
danced into the alley. 

That did it. I’d tried my best, but 
here I went, into the movie now for 
good and final. I only needed music 
now to dance what was left of my 
mind away as the credits rolled down 
and sealed me in video forever. As 
Number Three ran up, there was the 
first high horn blast of our theme, 
and it didn’t surprise me at all. But it 


158 


Fantasy & Science Fiction 



held and held, and all three spiders 
sagged to a crouch, and froze. 

In all the sixty minutes of my film 
career, that was my greatest role. It’s 
lost to posterity now. I took all three 
of their tag-alongs and processed 
them with my ax until they were at 
the desired consistent7 — about like 
sand. I shucked the director’s billfold 
from my wad of bonuses and filled it 
with the sand, and on my walk to the 
pay gate, I leaked it out all along the 


way and ditched the billfold. But the 
palps I snuck out in my pants leg. 
You’ve seen them over the fireplace 
back at our hou.se. I bet you wondered 
what they were. 

It was a lot to do in the short time 
after the trumpets called the shoot’s 
end, with all the raft cruising to rou.st 
the survivors out of the set, but it 
wasn’t all I did. I also chopped every 
fucking leg off those three spiders. 
Just for fun. 



EXPERIENCING TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES 


The Extra 


159 





REPORT ON COMPETITION 42 

For this competition you were 
asked to vary the title of any main- 
stream or non-SF work to turn it into 
a science fiction or fantasy piece. 
Your response was enthusiastic, with 
quite a few repeats however: GONE 
WITH THE SOUR WIND, THE 
MERCHANT OF VENUS, WATERSHIP 
DUNE, A SPACESHIP NAMED DESIRE. 
The winners: 

FIRST PRIZE 

A TALE OF TWO SIDDHIS 
CHLDREN OF A IA2ER GOD 
ASTRAL QUEEN 
AS I UY SCRYING 

THE ROBOT WHO KNEW TOO 
MUCH 

lAZARSMITH 

Ken Gilbreath 
Chattanooga, TN 

SECOND PRIZE 

PUDDIN’HUDS WILSON 

BRIDESHUD RUCTIVATED 

THE PROGRAMMING OF HENRY 
ADAMS 

JOHN BROWN’S OTHER BODY 
STARLORD JIM 

Joe Sanders 
Mentor, OH 

RUNNERS UP 


GOODBYE, MR. MICROCHIPS 

THOUGHTCRIME AND PUNISH- 
MENT 

THE HURT OF THE ANTIMATTER 
John Morressy 
East Sullivan, NH 

THE POWER OF POSITRON 
THINKING 

THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE 
ROAMIN’ VAMPIRE 

WITCH MAN, POE MAN 

A TROLL GROWS IN BROOKLYN 

Pauline E. Gebhardt 
Stevinson, CA 

niE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROID 

MUTANT ON THE BOUNTY 

FOREVER ANDROID 

Gordon Aubrecht 
Takoma Park, MD 

THE VECTOR OF JUSTIN 

ROBOT, REDUX 

THE NAKED AND THE UNDEAD 

Keith Ferrell 
Greensboro, NC 

TOE THING AND I (A musical, based 
loosely on ANNA AND TOE THING 
OF SIAM) 

DUTHWORLD OF A SALESMAN 
GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS 
OF MADDNESS 


ANTIGRAVITY’S RAINBOW 


160 


Vince Moore 
Newark, DE 



HONORABLE MENTIONS 


BIG TWO-HEARTED FISHERMAN 

HENDERSON THE DRAIN THING 

Bruce Moomaw 
Cameron Park, CA 


BEM HUR 

THE SUNS OF NAVARRONE 

Ann K. Schwader 
Thornton, CO 


THE RAPE OF THE LOCH NESS 
MONSTER 

A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO BUILD 

TENDER IS THE NIGHTSIDE 

Bryan Allen 
Charlottesville, VA 

THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE 
COLD SLEEP 


ANTIMATTER MAME 
THE PODFATHER 

Arline Schwartz 
Brooklyn, NY 

A FAERIE HOME COMPANION 

SHATTERDAY THE RABBI SLEPT LATE 
Mark S. Painter 
Philadelphia, PA 


COMPETITION 43 (suggested by Donald Franson) 

PROOFREADER’S HOLIDAY : The proofreader has gone on vacation and a 
number of science fiction and fantasy titles have been itered by the change of 
a single letter into entirely different works. 

Give the new title along with a one-sentence summary of the new plot 
suggested by the new title. E.G.; 

BAR OF THE WORLDS (Martians and Earthmen get drunk together). 
NEUROIANCER (The biography of a brain surgeon). 

TRAMPS OF DOOM (Hobos leave jungle and attack cities). 

THE LISTS OF AVALON (Index to Arthurian characters). 

WREN WORLDS COLLIDE (Two birdhouses smash together in a gale). 

Please limit yourself to 10 entries. 


Rules: Send entries to Competition 
Editor, F&SF, Box 56, Cornwall, Conn. 
06753. Entries must be received by 
May 15. Judges are the editors of 
F&SF; their decision is final. All en- 
tries become the property of F&SF; 
none can be returned. 


Prizes: First prize, eight different hard 
cover science fiction books. Second 
prize, 20 different sf paperbacks, Run- 
ners-up will receive one-year subscrip- 
tion to F&SF. Results of Competition 
43 wiU appear in the September Issue. 


161 





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* Explicit scenes and/or language may be offensive lo some. 


SCIENCE FICTION BOOKCLUB® 

Dept. BT-152, Garden City, NY 11535 

I want the best SF in or out of this world! Please accept 
my application for membership in the Science Fiction Book 
Club. Send me the 5 books I have numbered in the boxes 
below, and bill me just $1 (plus shipping and handling). I 
agree to the Club Plan as described in this ad. I will take 4 
more books at regular low Club prices in the coming year 
and may resign any time thereafter. SFBC offers serious 
works for mature readers. 


if under 18 , parent must sign 

The Science Fiction Book Club offers its own complete hard- 
bound editions sometimes altered in size to fit special 
presses and save you even more. Members accepted in 
U.S.A. and Canada only. Canadian members will be serviced 
from Canada. Offer slighfly different in Canada. 38-5040 






Adventurers W anted 

Extensive travel to new lands . . . new 
planets and unexplored territories! 

Require: Applicant for exclusive 
adventure club. Take on robots, 
dragons and dangerous aliens 
throughout the universe! 

Equipment furnished. 

To Apply: Fill out the information 
on the reverse. You will receive the 
5 adventures of your choice. 



24S1 Spec ed a 
G lut) eel $8.98 



1420 Includes Ihe 
Fiftl. Second, and 


Third Books. 
Spec ed a 
G lobed $798 



ruu. uu. 

Clubed $7.98 



Melnibofld: 

The Sailor on Ihe Seas 
01 Fate; The Weird 
ol the White Wolf 

Spec ed a 
Clubed $698 



THE ELRIC SAGA 
PART 11 

bt MkM MasmeS 


1172 The Vanithino 
Tower: The Bane of 
the Black Sword: 
Stormhringer. 

Spec ed A 
Clubed $798 





ROGhJlZElAZNY 


3269 Pub ed $14 95 
Clubed $4.98 


2923 The Peace 
IMr; Marooned 
In Realtime. 
Comb pub 
ed $34 90 
Clubed $698 





3160 P'jb ed $1695 

Clubed $598 



Club ed. $498 



Clubed $498 



Take any 5 books for membership. 

See other side for coupon and additional Selections. 

SCIENCE FICTION BOOK CLUB^ 

' Copyright 1986 Paramount Pictures Corporation All Rights Reserved 38-S040 

STAR TREK is a Registered Trademark of Paramount Pictures Cerperalion *EKpllcil scenes and/or language may be offensive to some. A Exclusive hardcover edition. 




RENEW my subscription to 

FANTASY AND SCIENCC FtCTION I enclose 

□ $16.97 for one year 

□ $3^.00 for txj^o ye^rs: Now $29.00 for 2 Years 

NAME 

ADDRESS 

CITY STATE ZIP # 

( If you have already rorrewed disregard this notice) 

ADD $4.00 OUTSIDE U S.; MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE IN U S. DOLLARS 


YOUR SUBSCRIPTION 

EXPIRES 

WITH THE NEXT ISSUE 





BUSINESS REPLY MAIL 
MUST CLASS PERMIT NO. 2 (XIRNWALL, CT 


Postage will be paid by addressee 



CorawaU, CT 06753 



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IF MAILED 
IN THE 

UNITED STATES